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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Jonathan Safran Foer
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho Someone recommended that I read this book so I did. I did not know what to expect. The writing style was boring but this might be because it suffers from translation, so I can't really say much about the style. However, the content is something I have an opinion on. It became clear after a while that this book is used as a vehicle for a parable from the author; a spiritual message about life; a truism that transcends everything real, concrete and worth dealing with. The message simplistically summarised is this: what you seek is within you and don't be afraid to follow you dreams because the universe will help you. Love is all around. You just have to be willing to tap into it. Tell that to the lost boys of Sudan who were orphaned and walked for years across the north african desert, most dying, either of starvation, disease or animal attacks, as they made their way for thousands of miles to find some godforsaken refuge camp. Tell that to Fritzel's daughter, the one he kept in the basement for 20 years while he raped her and forced her to bear his children. That the author has the temerity to preach, and he is preaching because the writing style leaves no room for a counter opinion when an opinion is posited, means he knows something more about the universe and how it has him at it's centre revealing the stunning level of arrogance with which he must live his life. If I didn't feel he was preaching a spiritual view of the world my criticisms would not be as harsh. If his book read more as a story with character who learns something from a life experience rather than the learning being imparted on him by an endless series of trials then being so mercilessly critical of this book would not be appropriate. However this is not the case; the story lacks the conflict and melding of multiple viewpoints between characters that are hallmarks of story written for the reader. Instead all the characters in the book are essentially vehicles of the author's voice; they all speak with the same opinion, and the protagonist is you, the hapless reader stumbling through life in search of answers. His fan base must have a few brain cells more than an amoeba, but not many, because otherwise he would not write a sentence like this “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” and expect a thinking reader to simply lap it up.