Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (quotes)
August 21, 2008
I just began reading my new favorite book. I haven’t even completed it yet; I am only on page 86, but I am always able to tell by about page 20 if a book will be my favorite or not. Don’t ask me how because I am not sure how either. These are just some quotes that made me feel something while I was reading this beautifully written story.
“Being with him made my brain quiet. I didn’t have to invent a thing.” 
“Well, what I don’t get is why do we exist? I don’t mean how, but why.” I watched the fireflies of his thoughts orbit his head. He said, “We exist because we exist.” “What the?” “We could imagine all sorts of universes unlike this one, but this is the one that happened.” 
“Just because you’re an atheist, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t love for things to have reasons for why they are.” 
“The meaning of my thoughts started to float away from me, like leaves that fall from a tree into a river, I was the tree, the world was the river.” 
“We laughed and laughed, together and separately, out loud and silently, we were determined to ignore whatever needed to be ignored, to build a new world from nothing if nothing in our world could be salvaged, it was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about my life at all.” 
“If I’d been somone else in a different world I’d’ve done something different, but I was myself and the world was the world, so I was silent.” 
“The end of suffering does not justify the suffering, and so there is no end to suffering, what a mess I am, I thought, what a fool, how foolish and narrow, how worthless, how pinched and pathetic, how helpless.” 
“It’s just that everything was incredibly far away from me.” 
“Our laughter kept the feathers in the air. I thought about birds. Could they fly if there wasn’t someone, somewhere, laughing?” 
“I have no need for the past, I thought, like a child. I did not consider that the past might have a need for me.” 
“I did not need to know if he could love me. I needed to know if he could need me.” 
“When Dad was tucking me in that night and we were talking about the book, I asked if he could think of a solution to that problem. “Which problem?” “The problem of how relatively insignificant we are.” He said, “Well, what would happen if a plane dropped you in the middle of the Sahara Desert and you picked up a single grain of sand with tweezers and moved it one millimeter?” I said, “I’d probable die of dehydration.” He said, “I just mean right then, when you moved that single grain of sand. What would that mean?” I said, “I dunno, what?” He said, “think about it.” I thought about it. “I guess I would have moved a grain of sand.” “Which would mean?” “Which would mean I moved a grain of sand?” “Which would mean you changed the Sahara.” “So?” “So? So the Sahara is a vast desert. And it has existed for million of years. And you changed it!” “That’s true!” I said, sitting up. “I changed the Sahara!” “Which means?” he said. “What? Tell me.” “Well, I’m not talking about moving that one grain of sand one millimeter.” “Yeah?” “If you hadn’t done it, human history would have been one way…” “Uh-huh?” “but you did do it, so…?” I stood on the bed, pointed my fingers at the fake stars, and screamed: “I changed the course of human history!” “That’s right.” “I changed the universe!” “You did.” “I’m God!’ “You’re an atheist.” “I don’t exist!” I fell back onto the bed, into his arms, and we cracked up together. 
“I shook my tambourine the whole time, because it helped me remember that even though I was going through different neighborhoods, I was still me.” 
“Humans are the only animal that blushes, laughs, has religion, wages war, and kisses with lips. So in a way, the more you kiss with lips, the more human you are.” 
“Songs are as sad as the listener.” 
“I like to see people reunited, maybe that’s a silly thing, but what can I say, I like to see people run into each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone…” 
“Everything was forever fixed, there would only be peace and happiness, it wasn’t until last night, our last night together, that the inevitable question finally arose, I told her, “Something,” by covering her face with my hands and then lifting them like a marriage veil. “We must be.” 
“..Literature was the only religion her father practiced, when a book fell on the floor he kissed it, when he was done with a book he tried to give it away to someone who would love it..” 
“I hated myself for going, why couldn’t I be the kind of person who stays? 
“I thought that maybe if she could express herself rather than suffer herself, if she had a way to relieve the burden, she lived for nothing more than living, with nothing to get inspired by, to care for, to call her own…” 
“I worried about her, putting all of her life into her story, no, I was so happy for her, I remembered the feeling she was feeling, the exhileration of building the world anew.” [119-120]
“I should have drowned us there in the room, ended our suffering, they would have found us floating face-down in two thousand white pages, or buried under the salt of my evaporated tears…” 
“I’m trying,” Mr. Goldberg said to me, as if only the two of us existed. “Trying what?” I asked, in a voice more concerned than I’d wanted, he took off his glasses again, “Trying to be.” 
“We go on killing each other to no purpose! It is war waged by humanity against humanity, and it will only end when there’s no one left to fight.” 
“Just two days ago she said that her life story was happening faster than her life.” 
“I thought, it’s a shame that we have to live, but it’s a tragedy that we get to live only one life, because if I’d had two lives, I would have spent one of them with her.” 
“I pointed her index fingers toward each other and slowly, very slowly, moved them in, the closer they got, the more slowly I moved them, and then, as they were about to touch, as they were only a dictionary page from touching, pressing on opposite sides of the word “love,” I stopped them, I stopped them and held them there. I don’t know what she thought, I don’t know what she understood, or what she wouldn’t allow herself to understand, I turned around and walked away from her, I didn’t look back, I won’t.” 
“I can’t live, I’ve tried and I can’t. If that sounds simple, it’s simple like a mountain is simple.” 
“I felt, that night, on that stage, under that skull, incredibly close to everything in the universe, but also extremely alone. I wondered, for the first time, if life was worth all the work it took to live. What exactly made it worth it? What’s so horrible about being dead forever, and not feeling anything, and not even dreaming? What’s so great about feeling and dreaming?” 
“So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!” 
“Then, out of nowhere, a flock of birds flew by the window, extremely fast and incredibly close. Maybe twenty of them. Maybe more. But they also seemed like just one bird, because somehow they all knew exactly what to do.” 
“Why would I want to spend eternity next to an empty box?” 
“That’s been my problem. I miss what I already have, and I surround myself with things that are missing.” 
“Life. It was the ultimate secret.” 
“When I was a girl, my life was music that was always getting louder. Everything moved me. A dog followed a stranger. That made me feel so much. A calendar that showed the wrong month. I cried over it…I spent my life learning to feel less.” 
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” 
“He pointed at, Sometimes one simply wants to disappear.
I pointed at, There’s nothing wrong with not understanding yourself.
He pointed at, How sad.
I pointed at, And I wouldn’t say no to something sweet.
He pointed at, Cried and cried and cried.
I pointed at, Don’t cry.
He pointed at, Broken and confused.
I pointed at, Something.
He pointed at, Nothing.
I pointed at, Something.
Nobody pointed at, I love you.”
“That is what death is like. It doesn’t matter what uniforms the soldiers are wearing. It doesn’t matter how good the weapons are. I thought if everyone could see what I saw, we would never have war anymore.” 
“No matter how much I feel, I’m not going to let it out. If I have to cry, I’m gonna cry on the inside. If I have to bleed, I’ll bruise. If my heart starts going crazy, I’m not gonna tell everyone in the world about it. It doesn’t help anything. It just makes everyone’s life worse….” “But if you’re burying your feelings deep inside you, you won’t really be you, will you?” 
“It’s the tragedy of loving, you can’t love anything more than something you miss.” 
“Maybe we’re just missing things we’ve lost, or hoping for what we want to come.” 
“Every moment before this one depends on this one.” 
“Feeling pain is still better than not feeling, isn’t it?” 
“Everything that’s born has to die, which means our lives are like skyscrapers. The smoke rises at different speeds, but they’re all on fire, and we’re all trapped.” 
“She let out a laugh, and then she put her hand over her mouth, like she was angry at herself for forgetting her sadness.” 
“And then a thought came into my brain that wasn’t like the other thoughts. It was closer to me, and louder. I didn’t know where it came from, or what it meant, or if I loved it or hated it. It opened up like a fist, or a flower.” 
“I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the vast majority of the universe is composed of dark matter. The fragile balance depends on things we’ll never be able to see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. Life itself depends on them. What’s real? What isn’t real? Maybe those aren’t the right questions to be asking. What does life depend on? I wish I had made things for life to depend on. What if you never stop inventing? Maybe you’re not inventing at all.” 
“I don’t believe in God, but I believe that things are extremely complicated, and her looking over me was as complicated as anything ever could be. But it was also incredibly simple. In my only life, she was my mom, and I was her son.” 
I can’t even begin to explain how moving this book was. I couldn’t put it down once. This book made me feel so many wonderful and painful emotions. Foer executed this book beautifully and accurately. It’s a breath of fresh air, and a reminder that there are still real people in this world. This book, at the very least, will pull out emotions from deep inside that you didn’t know existed; at least that’s what it did for me. Some books in this world are only great once, but this book I could pick up in 5 or 10 years and still love all the same, and even more. I loved this book like no other. It isn’t a book to pick apart and analyze every single sentence or word. That would simply take away from the realmeaning of it. It’s a book to think about, and it’s a book you can find parts of yourself in. With every comment Oskar or any other character made, I found myself remembering how I once or still think the same things as crazy as they may be. I could go on and on about this book, but for anyone reading this, I highly recommend it.
** UPDATE (4/12)** A reader recently emailed me asking for my insight on a few of my favorite quotes. I was on a time crunch, but I managed to scribble down a few things about some of the quotes. In no way, shape, or form, am I trying to say that I believe that my insight is correct. It is simply my thoughts and feelings.
“Just because you’re an atheist, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t love for things to have reasons for why they are.”
— This was one of my favorites because I question religion far too much. I’m not an atheist and will probably never have the guts to completely deny something so powerful, but just this quote restated my whole philosophy on life that everything has a purpose and that everything and everyone is here for a reason, not just by a mere coincidence. Atheists can have vivid imaginations too.
“I shook my tambourine the whole time, because it helped me remember that even though I was going through different neighborhoods, I was still me”
— This is one of my absolute favorites because I actually used to do something like this when I was little (except with me, I had a harmonica….silly, I know). This is important to the book because it really shows that Oscar creates most of his identity within his house and with those things that he is familiar with. In his journey to find the lock for his key, he is kind of forced out of his comfort zone into meeting people with new stories for him to hear. It’s kind of a way for Oscar to mature and to find new aspects of himself in new parts of his city. ( I’m not sure if I look way too much into these quotes, but this is just what I gathered from reading the book like 6 times).
“When Dad was tucking me in that night and we were talking about the book, I asked if he could think of a solution to that problem. “Which problem?” “The problem of how relatively insignificant we are.” He said, “Well, what would happen if a plane dropped you in the middle of the Sahara Desert and you picked up a single grain of sand with tweezers and moved it one millimeter?” I said, “I’d probable die of dehydration.” He said, “I just mean right then, when you moved that single grain of sand. What would that mean?” I said, “I dunno, what?” He said, “think about it.” I thought about it. “I guess I would have moved a grain of sand.” “Which would mean?” “Which would mean I moved a grain of sand?” “Which would mean you changed the Sahara.” “So?” “So? So the Sahara is a vast desert. And it has existed for million of years. And you changed it!” “That’s true!” I said, sitting up. “I changed the Sahara!” “Which means?” he said. “What? Tell me.” “Well, I’m not talking about moving that one grain of sand one millimeter.” “Yeah?” “If you hadn’t done it, human history would have been one way…” “Uh-huh?” “but you did do it, so…?” I stood on the bed, pointed my fingers at the fake stars, and screamed: “I changed the course of human history!” “That’s right.” “I changed the universe!” “You did.” “I’m God!’ “You’re an atheist.” “I don’t exist!” I fell back onto the bed, into his arms, and we cracked up together.”
— For such a long quote, I can really only say one thing about it. Oscar’s dad is opening up millions of doors of opportunity for Oscar in this quote. He basically just tells Oscar that it doesn’t take much to change the world. So many people think you need to be Mother Theresa to say you’ve helped change the world, but it’s not true. One small act such as moving a grain of sand in the Sahara means you have changed the world, and that is what Oscar’s dad wanted to let him know.
“I felt, that night, on that stage, under that skull, incredibly close to everything in the universe, but also extremely alone. I wondered, for the first time, if life was worth all the work it took to live. What exactly made it worth it? What’s so horrible about being dead forever, and not feeling anything, and not even dreaming? What’s so great about feeling and dreaming?”
— For as many times as I have read this book, I still, for the life of me, cannot figure out why Foer titled this story the way he did. Maybe he just likes the adjectives extremely and incredibly, but whatever the case may be, he uses those words to emphasize something. I think this is one of those quotes (Foer has about a million of them) that really humanizes the characters in the book. Foer doesn’t hide the emotions of his characters. He is very revealing about each and every person’s most intimate thoughts and feelings. This quote just delves into Oscar’s most inquisitive nature. Take yourself back to that very first quote in the book with Oscar questioning the mechanics of everyday items and how they work. Now, after Oscar’s dad’s death, he questions more intense and deep aspects about not only life, but death.
”Feeling pain is still better than not feeling, isn’t it?”
–This is just one of those quotes that is so incredibly true. We, as humans, underestimate the power of physical feelings because we’re so wrapped up in how we feel mentally. We want to feel happy all the time…and how ignorant is that? We overlook how important pain is to life. It is essential. We overlook how most physical pain can heal in a timely manner, but mental pain can last a lifetime. This quote is just to remind us that pain lets us know that we are alive. It’s not the most comfortable reminder, but it’s a reminder nonetheless.
PS: I’ve probably gotten at least 15,000 views just on this one post, and as flattered as I am about this, I wouldn’t mind trying to promote my blog for, well, bloggish reasons (i may have just made a new word). Please, as you stumble up on this or google up on this or however you come across my blog, don’t hesitate to read my regular posts (not like my life really is that readable)…but…it’d be nice to know that someone is patient enough to read through my staggering thoughts. I guess what I’m trying to say here is I feel like I’m popular for something I didn’t necessarily write. As much as I love this book and love the quotes I found in this book, they are not my own. I hope, at least, though, that maybe I inspired at least 1 person to read this lovely book and find as much beauty in it as I did. So, to conclude, here is the link to my blog with other, more bloggish things: