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title

We have not talked about the title of this book yet. I would like to do so in the context of the two manifestations of the phrase “extremely loud and incredibly close” that I found in the text.

The first is on page 165 – “then, out of nowhere, a flock of birds flew by the window, extremely fast and incredibly close” – and comes just after Oskar turns Mr. Black’s hearing aid back on. By itself, the phrase here gives an impression of how startled Mr. Black must be by this sudden rush of sound, and it sounds natural in Oskar’s voice. However, Foer certainly knew that this phrase would evoke the title of the novel, so why did he use it here? Possibly he simply wanted to draw out attention to a significant moment in the text, possibly he wanted to somehow comment on that moment. For a long time, Mr. Black has been hiding out in his apartment with his memories, unable to hear anything – he has been silent and far away. Now Oskar has, in an instant, brought him back to the immediacy of living.

The title appears again during Oskar’s conversation with Mr. William Black. Oskar describes the man he saw in Mrs. Black’s apartment and when Mr. Black asks if the man was really yelling, Oskar replies “extremely loud” (p. 293). Then, once he discovers ┬áthat the yelling man was actually Mr. Black, Oskar says that it was weird that they were in the apartment together eight months ago without realizing it and that they were “incredibly close” (p.295). Again, while Oskar may not be aware of the significance of what he says, Foer is, so these lines did not appear by accident. They might be here as clues to the meaning of this section. Oskar learns that the key doesn’t have anything to do with his father, so his father, who has been kept extremely close to him by the key worn over his bandaged heart, is now slipping farther and farther away. Oskar thought that his father wanted to tell him something through the key, but now the key is silent.

Whether Foer knew exactly what meaning he wanted us to take from each of these scenes or just wanted to point them out, his use of the title in the text was another reminder of his presence as the author. We spoke in class about how the unusual element of the text – the sections of photos, the passages with words circled in red – enhance it, but also draw attention to it as a construction, and for me the use of the title does this also. This title is not simply one word, such as “Oskar”, which we would expect to find in a book about a character with that name. Therefore, it sticks out to us when we read it, but it sticks out almost enough to trip us up.

Foer’s thoughts on his title

One Response to “title”

  1. Olivia says:

    I’ve also wondered at the blatant insertion of the title (or pieces of the title) in these scenes in the novel, and I appreciate the link to the interview with Foer. As I read the book, I think that I just assumed that it was Foer’s way of calling attention, in vital moments, to how very loud and close life is for the main character. It seems to me that so much of the book goes into conveying to the reader how it feels to be Oskar in Oskar’s world. For example, as Foer says of the photographs in his novel, “Some of the images in the novel pertain directly to Oskar’s story, but many are there to provide context to his life and give the reader access to a different kind of sympathy. That is, the photographs show not only what Oskar’s eyes might see, they show his eyes.” While this may seem like a digression, and while I’m now leaving a very long and somewhat rambling comment, my point is one that applies to the title overall, and its one that Foer reinforces to some extent: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is entitled as it is (and is inserted as it is) because Foer does not want his readers to forget the sometimes paranoid, most often concerned over-stimulation of the child narrating the story.