Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Lit City. Yeah, this one's about books.

Dave Eggers and Jonathan Safran Foer are the new posterboys for postmodern literature, but I never thought of them together in that context until, entirely by chance, I read Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Eggers' You Shall Know Our Velocity! one right after the other. Although their styles are quite similar - they both regularly employ the visual potential of literature either by manipulating the format of the text or through the inclusion of photographs or illustrations - the atmosphere and tone that their writing evokes are quite different. In both cases it's about emotion, but while Foer's writing creates an atmosphere of love and sadness more than anything else, Eggers' work tends to adopt a tone of anger and almost frenetic energy.

The respective plots of these novels also complement each other quite well. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is about a young boy whose father died in the September 11 attacks, following him as he confronts his father's death by going on a quest to unlock the mystery of his father's life. You Shall Know Our Velocity!, on the other hand, is entirely about flight from pain; in the space of a week, the protagonist travels the globe giving away vast sums of money as he goes, all in an effort to escape his own anger and grief. Each represents a different approach to pain, the first being constructive and the second destructive. Read together, I found myself identifying with them both; they each tapped into different aspects of my personality; Eggers appeals to my sense of frustrated anger while Foer offers up an unchecked sentimentality that affected me more than I'd like to admit.

I heartily recommend both of these books. Independently, they are each perfect examples of the potential of postmodern literature (although in Foer's case I would recommend his first novel Everything is Illuminated - soon to be released as a major motion picture about which I am skeptical but really want to be optimistic - over Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), but together they really and truly provide a shining example of the ongoing vitality of the novel as a literary medium.


Blogger Quimby said...

I'm with ya man, but I think calling them postmodern sounds so scary. These texts are both extremely accessible.


ps also did you notice this post was about literature, not movies?

pps i like the part where they tape money to a donkey. hahaha.

September 04, 2005 7:50 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Since when does postmodern mean inaccessible? I think Modernism can be just as inaccessible as Postmodernism; it just depends on the writer.

I suppose anything kind of new can seem inaccessible because it goes against convention and is thus sometimes hard to grasp. One could say this is the case with both Foer and Eggers' occasional forays into frantic forms of stream of consciousness or unreliable narration, but while this may make for less of a frontbrain accessibility, it speaks (and quite loudly) to a primal emotionality (is that a word?) that standard forms of literature rarely ever approach.

September 05, 2005 5:32 PM  

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