When Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel came out many hailed him as the greatest thing since bread had met slicing. Then there was a raging backlash. Then the movie came out and kinda fizzled and his sophomore book didn’t do all that much either. So, maybe now that things have kinda settled back to zero it is a good opportunity to see what all the hubbub is about. It comes down to this:
Yes, definitely if you are annoyed by gimmicky writing, avoid this book like the plague. If you can stomach magical realism, shifting timelines, stories within stories within letters from unreliable sources withing stream-of-consciousness poorly translated and etcetera — if you can stomach this, if you are willing to put up with the occasional eye-roll of “just spit it out!” then, yes, there’s a lot to be found here. For one, it is very funny. Laugh out loud on the subway funny. Although, post-Borat, maybe not as funny as it once was. (Which came first, this book or Borat? It is kinda the same joke at times.) There is tenderness and heart and the occasional Nazi crime, but that, alas, seems kinda false to me. The thesis of the book, the importance of memory, is all well and good — but no one would give two shits about this book or J. S. F. if it weren’t for the jokes. There are good jokes here and I recommend this book as comedy and not much more.