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Peeking Over My Shoulder

Miscellaneous quotes from current reads or past faves, as well as to-reads culled from friends' recommendations, blogs, podcasts, etc. A running answer to the question: "What're you reading?"

Currently reading

The Dante Club
Matthew Pearl
The Famished Road
Ben Okri
Kingdom Come
J.G. Ballard
The City and the City
China Miéville
Open City: A Novel
Teju Cole
The Slippage: A Novel
Ben Greenman
Please Step Back
Ben Greenman
Blindness / Seeing
José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator), Margaret Jull Costa (Translator)

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer This book took some time to get into - not a lot - but it was shaky at first because I read The ~ of the Dog in the Nighttime which seemed to feature a similar main character, a young boy who seemed detached from mainstream society in certain ways and has trouble relating to that society. In the latter book, this is because the kid is possibly autistic (it's never said explicitly). In this book, however, I do not believe this to be the case though clearly the author gave his young protagonist a unique personality which has some similarities (he only wears white clothes, for instance). Eccentricities? I was worried, whatever they are, that both authors were exploiting these eccentricities in their stories for shock value. In Nighttime, this does seem to be the case to me. In ELIC - not so much.The story is very richly detailed - with complex characters and intense relationships among all the main characters. We see the young boy as the main character and in truth the story stays very much _his_ story throughout but woven throughout are just as compelling, and just as relevant, stories from his relatives and acquaintances/friends. These stories each are linked to each other in ways you cannot fully predict but once you learn of the links, you begin to better understand all the characters.Reading (or rather listening - which is a relevant distinction for this book in particular - stay tuned) to this story was very much like walking into an art gallery filled with fog and being lead through the gallery by the hand of this young, precocious (i.e. very mature for his age in good ways and complicated ways) boy. As you walk through the gallery, the fog begins to slowly lift and you see stunning portraits, multimedia presentations, etc and sometimes you walk past the same exhibits, and each time you see something new because the fog is lifting and because each piece impacts how you view the others.And of course there is the boy himself, who is sharing his story with you and by the 3rd disc or so, I was really enamored with Oscar and wanted to know more. The other characters, sometimes when you pass by their portraits they come to life and you are compelled to join them inside the picture frame, and listen to their story, led by the hand by them through the same gallery as if in an alternate universe.The back of this audiobook relates this as a journey of the main character as he tries to heal from the death of his father during the World Trade Center attacks. This is, on one hand, only a small part of the story, and yet on the other hand, it is the only part of Oscar's story - all else is relative to that. Truly the book succeeds at weaving many stories together in such a way that both of these statements are equally true.Lastly, I would say that most of the time reading a book via audiobook does not significantly change the experience of reading the book. There are distinct differences to be sure. And there are things that are changed to make the audiobook work. In the case of this book, I had to go to the bookstore to look at the paperback, because I could tell that this would be an oddly formatted book just from the many different stories, etc etc. And indeed, it is! There are different kinds of text, with different colors, fonts, sizes, etc. Letters. Photos. etc. And that's so appropriate but it also allowed me to marvel at what they must have done to translate the story into an audiobook format. I'd have to really sit down and read the paperback to comment further.I have not decided yet why I have given this only a 4, and not a 5. I may upgrade the rating. As this is my 2nd book added to my shelf - I have to consider whether this book is indeed on par with the last, which I rated a 5. But don't get me started on the arbitrariness of rating systems and how to avoid this with a definitive system...