(Another brilliant line from my favorite book ever.)
I've mentioned it before, and I continually go back to this book. No matter how many times I read it and re-read it, I learn something, and life makes more sense. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tells the story of 9 year old Oskar Schell who loses his father and sense of place in this world on September 11th. Told from Oskar's point of view, with interspersed segments written by other key characters, Oskar travels throughout New York City, trying to make sense of things, and hoping to find the origin of a key that belonged to his father.
It seems so strange to me that the attacks happened 10 years ago. I have a strong memory, but I can remember exact conversations from that day. I was in sixth grade. I remember my teacher strangely putting down all the shades. I remember they needed a volunteer to take envelopes to all the classrooms. I had no idea what those envelopes contained, but I was excited to have been picked. I told my neighbor, who picked us up that day, how excited I was to get out of class to deliver envelopes to classrooms. She told me that a lot had happened that day. Being the nosy kid I've always been, I fished for an explanation. And on the ride home, pointed out every strange thing I saw. The flag half-staff at the fire department. Businesses unexpectedly closed for the day. People hugging absolutely everywhere. My sisters and I went inside our house and threw our backpacks down. Ciara and McKenna, in 3rd grade and kindergarten at the time, went to the kitchen to get their after school snack. I called my mom and demanded an explanation. I remember her sigh. I can still count the seconds between that sigh and the sentence. She told me to turn on the news. Ciara came in. We were 11 and 8 years old. And we watched the footage and listened to reporters inform us that people hated our country so much that they attacked us. McKenna came in and asked what was going on. Ciara is quick on her feet and told her it was an old movie. With the footage at the time being in black and white, she didn't question it.
We were fortunate enough to not have any family or friends that were in New York City then. But that wasn't true for everyone at my school. I remember people telling their stories, and the discussions that followed year after year as we held candle-lit services. And I guess that's the good that came from all of this. People were so open and honest. We could all admit to being scared. We could all share our stories, because so many of us, even though we were just kids, remember the seconds of hesitation just as I do.
I like Oskar's stories. I like his grandmother's stories. I like that I can relate to them, even though I wasn't there. And even though they are fictional. Because I know that there's an Oskar out there somewhere, with a grandma who contacts him on his walkie talkie. And they'll have their own stories, and I'll probably be interested in them. I like stories. I like open and honest and sincere stories. I like stories so much that my year-long BFA thesis project deals directly with stories and memories and sharing experiences.
I like silly stories and sincere stories. I like ones that don't make sense at all and ones that make sense of everything. I like ones with perfect endings and those that are perfect without endings. And I like hearing these stories from the people who experienced them. I like that level of empathy that comes from these personal exchanges. And I like the respect generated for the people sharing their wisdom and experiences.
They're turning this book into a movie. And I don't know how I feel about it. Tom Hanks is in it, which is promising, but the book is so, so perfect. And it's visual literature. Will it translate as well on film if you can't see the layers of text printed over each other, or the corrected newspaper articles, or the picture of the apes, or the pages that are completely blank save for one thought, or the flip book at the end?
It took me a long time to finish this book the first time. Because I never wanted it to end. I wanted Oskar's ramblings to continue. I wanted to learn about his daily adventures. I wanted to save all his memories. But that's what I'm doing now, with my BFA, and for all the Oskars out there. I want to save your memories. I want to hear your stories. And if it counts for anything, this book really does have an absolutely fitting ending. It's perfect.