Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge Book Club: Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

I liked this book and I disliked this book. There were some things about it that showed Foer’s strength and charm as a writer. I could see how the young Jewish American boy in his rounded glasses staring out from the author photograph had written this work. The story was interesting and it got better the more I read.

Then there were the annoying things that made me question why everyone likes this book so much. First off it was immature. Incredibly immature. It sounded exactly like a 24-year-old male had written it and poured out a sexually idealized version of himself in the process. The unnecessary mentioning of 69ing in the beginning of the book and then the sexual attraction resulting from the dead arm were things I couldn’t get used to or accept. They didn’t need to be there and they didn’t make the book better. Instead, they made it feel like Everything Is Illuminated was written by a young and immature writer. Very immature. Screaming PENIS in health class immature.These things bothered me as the book moved along.

There was also Sammy Davis Jr, Jr and the fact that he chose to refer to her as a bitch throughout the book instead of I don’t know a dog or animal or creature. Once again very immature. The character of Sammy Davis Jr, Jr didn’t make much sense or add anything to the book.

I also disliked the inclusion of the ESL letters in the book. Sometimes it was clever but most of the time it was annoying. I was glad when he stopped using spleen. Seriously, it spleened me. Oh wait, spleened is not a word.

The other thing that struck me is that this is the type of book written by a young American male of Jewish decent. It was good but I’ve read much better versions of the same thing. Michael Chabon is much more skilful. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was a measure that for better or worse I held up in my head while reading Everything Is Illuminated and it failed to compete with it. Chabon is a gifted and moving writer. I would rather have been reading one of his books.

My general objections aside I liked the arc of the story and I think it showed a great deal of potential. The parts that were told from story Jonathan Safran Foer’s perspective were interesting and intricate. I would be interested to see what writer Foer’s later work is like and how he has grown up as a writer.

After having spent a fair amount of time traveling in Russia and the surrounding area recently I enjoyed that aspect of the book. He effectively captured what it is like to travel in the former Soviet Union and what guides can be like at times.