Okay, that’s a little harsh, but the title does open itself up to that kind of critical wordplay.
In any event, I decided to do a day-by-day of my progress with the book, to be followed by a final review. I will almost certainly not keep this up.
Day One: I’ve read about 25-30 pages so far. This book has been marketed as 9/11 porn, but so far the attacks have been barely and briefly alluded to. What I can say with certainty is that this kid has got to be the most precocious, irritating, self-important little twerp in fiction.
To be fair, I’m not really criticizing Safran-Foer, as I’ve met kids like him and I can’t imagine any breeding ground more ideal for precocious and arrogant children than Manhattan. But still, this kid’s narrative reads like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, yet without the excuse of autism.
Day Two: I’ve just had the misfortune of being introduced to the second narrator, who is a mute and whose story is unbearably precious. Safran-Foer describes his descent into muteness as his vocabulary was slowly stolen from him handfuls of words at a time. Now completely mute, he writes everything that he would be saying — if he could speak. On top of that, he has “Yes” and “No” written on his hands for speed and convenience.
An unbearably precious example (bolding is mine to highlight extreme fits of preciousness):
“I started carrying blank books like this one around, which I would fill with all the things I couldn’t say, that’s how it started, if I wanted two rolls of bread from the baker, I would write, ‘I want two rolls’ on the next blank page and show it to him, and if I needed help from someone, I’d write, ‘Help,’ and if something made me want to laugh, I’d write, ‘Ha ha ha!’ and instead of singing in the shower I would write out the lyrics of my favorite songs, the ink would turn the water blue or red or green, and the music would run down my legs, at the end of each day I would take the book to bed with me and read through the pages of my life”
Oh fuck off.
It carries on like that with him “burning his laughter” for warmth or mopping up someone’s tears with his cries for help. I’m really hoping that the book overcomes its need to be clever, because so far I really, really, really do not care about anyone.
You can find the next two reviews here: