All that to say that, much like my recent post on The Catcher in the Rye, Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close didn't sit well with me during my first read. Also, much like the reasoning behind Catcher, Foer's unreliable first person narration flows in a stream-of-consciousness thought process. In this case it is a nine-year-old boy named Oskar Schell. The story takes place a couple years post 9/11, but jumps back and forth as Oskar recalls his life and family previous to 9/11 and how his life has changed since. The hard part for me is Oskar's personality specficially. He doesn't speak straight forward, instead using language creatively, such as saying he has "heavy boots" instead of "depressed." His imagination is overactive, causing him to ask crazy questions and invent crazy things that seemingly make no sense. His social skills do not follow the norm, leading him to do things that ostracize him, although for those who really know him, it's just "Oskar." Honestly, upon first reading I thought, if I were his parent I'd want to lock him in a closet (only when he drives me crazy, for his own good, I promise).
Now before you decide I'm cold-hearted, not caring about a kid's loss in 9/11, let me say I'm seeing a pattern that I don't mesh well with in literature. My Honors 11 class chose Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close as the novel with which to finish off our school year. That means a reread for me. At the same time, I've been rereading The Catcher in the Rye (for at least the seventh time) with my AP Lit classes. And between the two I've realized it's the stream of consciousness narration that I don't handle well. The tumbling of thoughts from the first person narrator drives me crazy, I begin to dislike a character who is meant to garner sympathy. And on Oskar's part, I feel more bad for his mother who has to deal with him! (The crazy feelings of parenting middle aged children have not left me quite yet.) As a person who thinks through so much in her life and the process thought follows in general, this was kind of a surprise. I reassure myself that I'm not a hypocrite because stream of consciousness is unbridled thought and totally different than a third person, omniscient or limited.
This much I know is true, I will have to reread all books with stream of consciousness narrators to truly see what the story is trying to say. Ugh, Holden Caulfield, what have you done to me?!