Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

A friend of mine laid this book on my desk and said "you've got to read this". Something in the way she said it made me take notice, and it was buried in my "to read" pile till just recently.

When I started reading it, I was immediately impressed with the writing style. It's pretty much stream of consciousness style, and I really related to that. It also was so clever and profound and emotional that it touched me deeply.

The book was written in 2005, and was one of the first novels about the terrorist attack of September 11th. Jonathan Foer brings a multimedia approach to this book using different type settings, spaces, and even blank pages to give the book a visual dimension beyond the written prose. There is even a little flip book effect at the end of the book, that uses the famous falling man picture from 9/11, to really bring home the emotional thrust of the end of the story.

The book's narrator is a precocious 9 year old boy named Oskar Schell. Oskar lost his father in the 9/11 disaster and is depressed and traumatized. He is overeducated and over sensitive. Oskar searches New York for the lock that matches a key his father left behind. This quest weaves together Oskar's story and the story of his grandparents whose lives were destroyed by the fire bombing of Dresden.

Throughout the novel Foer uses images to connect ideas and themes. I truly loved this compelling, extremely moving, and beautifully written book. My heart soared while I read it, and my mind raced with all the ideas it contained.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Buffalo Gal by Laura Pedersen

Laura Pedersen was the youngest columnist for The New York Times and, prior to that, the youngest person to have a seat on the American Stock Exchange. She has a finance degree from New York University's Stern School of Business. Her nonfiction book Play Money, about working on Wall Street, became a best seller. In 1994, President Clinton honored Pedersen as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans. She has appeared on CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, Primetime Live, The Today Show, and The Late Show with David Letterman. She has also performed stand-up comedy at the Improv, among other clubs, and writes material for several well-known comedians.

"Last Call" was a book of hers that our book club read a couple of years ago. Her characters in that book were so interesting and funny that they just jumped right off the page, and the book contained so much about life and faith and love and the kind of wisdom and acceptance that we all long for, that it was one of my favorites read that whole entire year.

This book is her memoir of growing up in Buffalo, New York, a place that has double the country's unemployment and triple the snowfall. But this warm hearted book of her childhood years is full of funny anecdotes about her eccentric family members and contains a great dollop of social history that captures the era quite vividly. And all of it wrapped up nicely in Laura's trademark humor.

Laura was the proverbial wild child growing up, the only child of unconventional parents. Her father was a chain smoking court reporter and her mother was a psychiatric nurse at a time when most mothers stayed home. She was left alone a lot growing up and therefore learned to be very independent quite early on. Her memories of the harsh winters and amazing blizzards of her childhood are told with her typical charm and she manages to capture the decline of the hometown she clearly loves in her own unique way. You don't have to have grown up in Buffalo to identify with her stories, and the friendships and discoveries and lessons learned come across in a lovely way.

Laura talks about being impressed with a man named Earl Nightingale, a motivational self-help guru along the lines of Dale Carnegie or Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. She said he became the portable tent that she would carry through life. Some of Earl's pearls of wisdom were that our attitude in life determines life's attitude toward us; we can let circumstances rule us, or we can take charge and rule our lives from within; what's going on inside shows on the outside; whenever we're afraid, it's because we don't know enough and if we understood enough, we would never be afraid; people with goals succeed because they know where they're going; your world is a living expression of how you are using your mind; wherever there is danger, there lurks opportunity and wherever there is opportunity, there lurks danger as the two are inseparable; creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm; you can help others by making the most of yourself more than in any other way; and you become what you think about. Good sound advice that Laura put to work in her own life and it no doubt helped her become the success that she is.

This was a very enjoyable book.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...