It took me a month to finish Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (book number 13) and even longer to stop staring at it and on to actually reading it. At one point, I thought I’d never get to read it, and at another, I thought I’d never reach the end, but I did and I’m glad.
I’ve mentioned in past posts how I anticipated it to be too sad and how finally reading it proved the point. The book is one giant mourning. There is no high in the narrative, just pure sad, but it is the beautiful kind of sad because most people run away from being sad, as if it is not natural, as if it is wrong.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close grieves in an honest, heart-wrenching way and I appreciate that. All the characters grieve, for all that is lost, for what will never come back, for the unfair tragedies, for not understanding, for memories that cannot be undone and those that will never be made… but the most striking for me is the pain brought on by words unsaid. I hate that kind of shit.
The part on the Hamlet play where Oskar, the lead character, invents dialogue in his head screaming “Succotash my cocker spaniel, you fudging crevasse-hole dipshittake!” rocks. More important, it highlights the profound incompetence of people in terms of expressing the words that must be said.
People are dumb. We say things we don’t mean and we don’t say the things that mean the world to us, and when it is too late we grieve, regret. Give me a fucking break. This is why I adored the bit where Oskar’s grandmother says it is always necessary to say I love you… we must.
Speaking of Oskar, I love him. He is Aspergers so I relate to him through and through. It is always difficult to deal with the bigger blows of life when certain conditions complicate things but I guess we all have to try to negotiate some sort of peace with the non-negotiable to get on living.
Oh, living. This is another important aspect in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The characters, they are in pain and they are hurting because they forget to live in the real world, because they choose to live trapped within their heads, where they nurse the tragedies of their lives and just put themselves in a box. That is the saddest thing. The characters refuse to move on, I guess with the exception of Oskar’s mother, who demonstrates a different aspect of coping after a loss, compared to everyone else.
The book is really beautiful in its sadness and I enjoyed reading it. Here are more takeaways from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:
1. There are two kinds of people: the one who leaves and the one who gets left behind (love the story of the grandparents, too cool!)
2. Not all rules need to be followed to make meaning.
3. “I hope that one day you will have the experience of doing something you do not understand for someone you love.”
4. At the end of the day, everybody just wants to be loved.
5. Protecting yourself from sadness comes at the price of sacrificing happiness.
6. “It was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about my life at all.”
8. “There’s nothing wrong with not understanding yourself.”
9. “It probably gets pretty lonely to be anyone”
10. “Sometimes you have to put your fears in order.”
11. “Learn to treat everything like it was the last time.”
I really enjoyed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Read it if you have no problems with an emotional tsunami and if you want to get a beautiful reminder of how wonderful life is and how wonderful it is to have your loved ones with you.