Friday, April 08, 2005


Jonathan Safran Foer meekly stepped up the podium at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square and politely thanked everyone for coming. He is a modest presence, unsure and suspecting why all these people have come to see him. On the way over, Foer began, he was riding on the subway without reading material or anything to distract himself. Instead he spent his time devising the best possible way to freak out tonight's audience (a standing room only event). Perhaps he would shave only one eyebrow and go on with his presentation pretending as if nothing had happened. But then, he concluded, he would have a shaved eyebrow.

Maybe he would memorize the section that he was going to read for us but then that looked too egocentric or a bit too self-involved.

Finally, Foer thought that he would answer all of the crowd's questions facing one randomly selected audience member every time, regardless of who asked the question. But then that would look creepy and weird.
It was decided that tonight's reading would involve no shtick whatsoever. Ultimately, though, this was the shtick in of itself. We were already charmed and nary an eyebrow needed to be shaved.


In truth, I don't feel comfortable reviewing ELAIC because after I finished reading it, I was without a concrete opinion. Essentially I will avoid what I call a "Walter Kirn," summarizing the book (in the New York Times Book Review) without offering any interesting ideas or original thoughts.

After completing Foer's second novel, I felt slightly emotionally manipulated, even a bit resentful (September 11th, the loss of a father) but I was moved all the same (while it may be through manipulation, it is nevertheless still an emotional response--strangely, I had a similar response to seeing "Garden State," a movie that also dealt with loss). Foer delivers us what we want; pogiancy, humor, quirks, and unrepentent sincerity. It's almost impossible to believe that he can be this sincere and "profound" all the time, as both the author of his books and as the writer that's profiled in interviews and articles but up to this point, it seems he is and can be (see Deborah Solomon's article, which is being attacked within the literary community for its doting tone).

Perhaps we need to suspend our jealousy and cynicism and agree that Jonathan Safran Foer is an extreme talent. One that we should watch incredibly close. Personally, I eagerly anticipate every written word Foer writes. I'm just not sure I'll be able to formulate an opinion after I've read them.

-- Does JSF blog? Maybe.


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