Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Jonathan Safron Foer: Loved the Author, Hated the Book

I am off to the first of our Houston author reading series. This year I decided to subscribe to the entire series. One of the bonuses of doing that is receiving a free book, Jonathan Safran Foer's latest, Here I Am. Everyone loves a free book.


Oh, how I wanted to like this book. I adored Foer's second book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. And this was a free copy. And I got to see the author. Couldn't wait to hear him speak. And then to read the book.


I pick up my copy before the reading.

Good grief. Look what season tickets gets you. I take my seat about fifteen minutes before the start time. Right behind the author. I try to unobtrusively lean in and listen in to and take notes on Foer's pre-reading chit-chat with the moderator of the event. I hear lots of witty back-and-forth. Authors really are the most clever of people.


Then Foer is introduced and reads from his book. He reads a scene from a urinal. His main character thinks he sees (and I mean, SEES) Steven Spielberg there. It's brilliant writing. And incredibly crude. This is a huge book. Foer could have read anything to us. He reads us a scene from a urinal. I'm beginning to feel a little worried.

Foer talks about the themes of his book. The disintegration of a marriage. Our struggle to be present in our own lives. The paradoxes we must live through---be a parent or be an individual, live by our religious values or our secular values, taking risks or playing it safe. I feel like I'm on higher ground. The urinal scene, when read in context, will have meaning, I'm sure.


Foer answers questions after his reading. He speaks to the hypervigilence of our modern existence. How small things can ruin a life. Paying attention. I'm eager again to get to the book.

The reading is over. I pull out my book first thing when I get home and read, even though it's an hour past my normal bedtime and I've got a full day tomorrow at work. I read and I read and I read, and I feel like I'm reading pages and pages of nothing, like I've eaten a full dinner of whipped cream. Tomorrow, I think. I'll try again then.

I do, and it doesn't get better for me. Nothing. The characters are appalling, all of them, even the children. They don't connect with each other, and they do appalling things, though, oddly, all the things they do are not real acts but virtual ones, and still that doesn't make the appalling things less appalling.

In the end, I give up. A hundred and fifty pages in, but I can't bear reading on.

You read on for me, will you? Let me know what I missed, and tell me if I gave up too early.





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15 comments:

  1. The reading with the author sounds good, but unfortunately the book doesn´t.
    That´s a pity.
    Best, Synnöve

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  2. How disappointing! But it's such a HUGE book. I doubt I would've stuck with it for 150 pages after reading your description. I'm anxious to read about your next author event. How fun!

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  3. Sounds like a disapointing book, I've had those the biggest was the Simarilian. None of it made sense & I gave up with it

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  4. Bummer. I have this on my list. If I tackle it, I'll let you know what I think.

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  5. I must say, it's unfortunate that the book was bad but refreshing to actually see a negative book review. Sometimes I feel people review the books as a favor just for a friend. Good to know to steer clear of this one!

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  6. congratulations for persevering! even with a 500-page page, I would give up at page 50. I see the overall rating on goodreads is quite low. a friend of mine gave it only 2!

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  7. You have no idea how glad I am to read this post. I read an earlier book of Foers and I just didn't get it. I wanted to like it because I had a friend (who had actually lent me the book) who LOVED it and I had seen several interviews of Foer and loved him. However, for me the book just felt like nonsense. Clever nonsense but nonsense all the same. I think I'll just enjoy his interviews when I come across them and leave his books for others.

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  8. Thanks for review. I'm still struggling just to read any book and had looked at "Incredibly Loud and Incredibly Close" with an aim to reading it. I'm going back and reading classics.

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  9. What a wonderful event! Marking the book for me to pick up.
    Happy WW!

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  10. Once again you took me with you; thank you. I am taking the book off my TBR book, but the author's other book (Incredibly Loud...) was excellent. Wonder why he went with crude this time around?

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  11. I wonder which is worse, to attend a dull author event for a great book or a great author event for a book you really don't like? You really brought us along with you for both parts of this experience; thanks!

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  12. How disappointing! I love to read, but a 500-page book is daunting, especially if it isn't as good as you expected. I love the idea of an author reading series. I hope future events are as enjoyable as this one was and that the books featured are more entertaining.
    Sandy @ TEXAS TWANG

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  13. Thank you for sharing your honest opinion. I enjoyed seeing your snapshots.

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  14. I love author events!! Our library hosts one every year for its All-County Reads book.

    I was fascinated by your post because I have never read a Foer novel and he is high on my want-to-read list. I LOVED the movie adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (so I bought the book also...but haven't gotten to it yet!). But I have also heard even numbers of raves and rants about Foer's novels & know many people don;t like him, so I'm not surprised by your reaction.

    I still feel like I have to give him a try just so I know what all the fuss is about!

    Sue

    Book By Book

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  15. I hear others haven't liked the new Foer book either. So apparently you are not alone! Still I'm sure it was interesting to hear him speak.

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