It’s my goal in the next twelve months to catch up on all of the great books I’ve missed in the last few years while I was focusing solely on reading for my education. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a lot by reading classics and books on writing. I’ve even managed to slip in the occasional young adult novel or fantasy epic in order to keep current with the trends, but the extraordinary amount of time it takes to really read what’s good and bad out there just hasn’t been available.
I took time out this week to read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. It’s another wonderful book I wish I’d read years ago. Aside from being the most playful with language and style that I’ve seen in a long while, it’s also the most beautifully written. It’s brief and easily digested in small chapters and I quickly found myself pulling it out of my bag whenever I had ten minutes at the bus stop or five minutes in line at the bank.
What worked for me was the development of character. I really don’t want to ruin anything for you but the characters take their time to reveal their secrets and while you’re waiting on them to give up the goods, you get taken for a ride in the whirlpool history of the fictional village around which everything is centered.
The style is extremely original and you find yourself having to backtrack often as one character edits the writings of another. It’s a bit like As I Lay Dying, which I hate, but without the incredible misery of Faulkner’s classic. Everything made me cry, certainly, but it made me laugh quite a bit too and it’s been a while since a book did that for me.
My critical piece on it will be up on my main site shortly if you’d like a deeper analysis with a bit more fancy vocabulary.
What didn’t work for me: Well, absolutely nothing.
I love this book. It is one of my favorites: instantly and completely. I hope to write a book half this good by the time I die.