Thursday, July 2, 2009

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- Jonathan Safran Fore

The genre of Contemporary Realistic Fiction is one that takes place in the present day time period or in the recent past. One of the main characteristics of this genre is that the story or plot is one that can actually exist in real life. The events that occur in the novel are things that can happen in reality. The time and setting of where the story takes place is usually in an existing place. Other elements of this genre also include the characters. Their personality, traits and characteristics are ones that a person can have in real life.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, written by Jonathan Safran Fore, is a novel which meets the expectations of the Contemporary Realistic Fiction genre. The fact that this story takes place in Manhattan, New York, is an element that makes this novel very ‘real’.
This novel is of child who has to cope with the death of the father throughout the novel. Two years before the story begins Oskar Schell loses his father in the attacks of September 11, 2001. Oskar then comes across a key in a vase that belonged to his father and a paper with the name ‘Black’ written on it. He then goes on a search for a person with the last name ‘Black’, which at the same time helps him cope with the death of his father. The plot of the novel itself is very believable. The fact that the author used September 11 as a basis to the storyline makes it very realistic. To read about a child who is deeply in remorse and pain because the loss of his father in that tragic event is something which has happened in the past.
Some of the other characters include his mother, grandmother, and grandfather. The author also tells the stories of the grandfather and grandmother through their letters to Oskar and Oskar’s father. These were people who had also experienced trauma. The bombing of Dresden, which was another historical tragedy the author used shattered the lives of these grandparents. Even though they survived it, they still lived a life of despair and pain. Through this historical tragedy the author conveys the emotions and sentiments of the characters very well. The feelings and dilemmas that these characters face while dealing with loss are indeed very relatable.
The way that the author writes this novel also makes it very realistic. His experimental style of writing adds much more to the novel itself. The use of letters helps put the story into context and conveys very powerful emotions. Fore uses visual dimensions which makes the novel more interesting and believable. He uses photographs, pictures and blank pages to help the reader get ‘inside’ Oskar’s head. This experimental technique actually provided more opportunities to understand the character better. Because Oskar is a child, adding pictures to the novel actually reinforced the sense of reality.
Although this novel’s genre is Contemporary Realistic Fiction, it also contains some elements that go against the genre. Oskar’s character in some ways does not seem realistic because of his personality. He is extremely intelligent, always wears white, a vegan, and has a witty personality. He seems much older than he is actually presented. For example there is one part in the novel in which Oskar walks from Manhattan to Queens to find a person with the name ‘Black’. That specific part in the novel exaggerates the abilities of a child and deviates from the genre.
There is no work of literature that strictly follows all the guidelines of a genre. According to Daniel Chandler, “it is difficult to make clearcut distinctions between one genre and another: genres overlap, and there are ‘mixed genres’…” This is true for every piece of literature. The word genre itself is hard to define. Chandler also states that “…some genres are ‘looser’- more open-ended in their conventions or more permeable in their boundaries.” This genre itself is also ‘looser’ than some of the other genres, especially the way it is presented in the novel. The author uses varieties of ways in which he demonstrates and presents the concept of ‘realism.’ The audience themselves can relate and understand the characters and the situations better especially because it was contemporary and contained a historical disaster that we can all relate to in some ways..

1 comment:

  1. I'm intrigued, but not sure that 'Contemporary Realistic Fiction' is quite defined here. Here the definition is closer to 'realist' than either contemporary or fiction--are there other qualities that such a work must have in order to fall into this category? What happens then is that you end up with making relatively general statements about how the piece is 'believable.' Very much like, though, when you shift attention to its more 'experimental' elements, because those do strike me as very much in keeping with contemporary fiction--the letters and the pictures, for example, might not be something we've always seen in fiction, might mark a shift in the genre.