Tuesday, November 28, 2006

#64 - Everything Is Illuminated

Finally, after almost seven weeks, a pathetic showing on my part, I limped to the finish line and finished Everything Is Illuminated last night before going to bed. The good, the bad, and the ugly about the book is as follows:

1. The Good
Jonathan Safran Foer is a brilliant bloody writer. He has a wonderful gift for humour, for the absurd, and for a meta-self-referential-po-mo stylist, an ease with prose that seems so natural that it's as refreshing to read as a swim in the lake on a hot July day.

2. The Bad
The disjointed narrative style, while cute, was very distracting. It took away from the fact that no aspect of the story actually get resolved. The novel bites around the story like a sandwich with the crusts cut off, and never really lets you in to the meat until the very end, and even then, it's hard to figure out exactly what happened. But maybe that's because it took me weeks to finish the novel and picking it up over a longer period of time makes it harder for me to put all the connections together.

3. The Ugly
I know it's wrong of me, but I couldn't help feeling like Sacha was Borat, or at least a version of that stereotypical character that comes across more caricature than anything else. And while I enjoyed his malapropisms, I felt the author used him more for comic relief and to show off than actually contributing to the story in any way.

Overall, I can see what all the spilled ink was about, but I wasn't as blown away by this novel as the rest of the ladies in my bookclub, but I'm sure as hell happy with being able to add a new book to my 1001 Books score. And with Persuasion, that brings my total to 122. Whee!


Beth said...

Hmm. Should I read this? I've been noting the hype. Your endorsement wasn't 100%. So many books, so little time...

Anonymous said...

i read this one after reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It was a bit of a slog, i have to agree. JSF is clearly a great writer, but i think you're spot on when you say that it's disjointed. EL&IC blew me away; that is the JSF novel to read.

Anonymous said...

While I have no idea what a "meta-self-referential-po-mo stylist" is, I loved this book. Of course, I had the luxury of reading the book pre-Borat. I thought that the disjointed style served the story - the past is presented as magic realism. The story of the shtetl has come to be romanticized (or worse) somewhere along the way.

Sacha, like Borat, may appeal more to a male sensibility. Several of my female friends hated this book. I don't know why. I also know some people who skipped one half of the story or the other (like the movie). As much as I loved it, I'm done recommending it to people though - there is no telling how they'll react.

I'd recommend Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It's outstanding.

Anonymous said...

Haven't read Illuminated but did see the movie, which I thought was amazing. Funny thing is, I've been told it's quite different from the book, especially since the screenplay was written by the director of the movie, the actor Liev Schriber. I'd love to know what you think of this film.

Tried to read 'Extremely Loud...' and just could not get through it. Just found it to be pretentious twaddle. Might try again at another time, perhaps when I'm in the mood for that kind of writing.

Anonymous said...

I had to go look up "twaddle". I couldn't disagree more, but many people dislike Foer for his writerly antics. If you didn't like Extremely Loud, I'm guessing you may not be a fan of Illuminated either.

The movie version of the Illuminated follows only one of two story lines presented in the book, so it is very different in that regard. Given that, the movie changed the story it did tell around slightly. Sacha is described in the book very much as he appeared in the film.

The actor who played Sacha in the movie is actually a Ukranian singer with a band called Gogol Bordello that plays "gypsy punk". I thought that he was perfect for the role.

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