Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Everything Is Illuminated (and Also Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) When You're Eating Animals


When I decided to write a blog (which was a much more painful decision-making process than it should have been), I started making a list of things I wanted to talk about.  I get two kinds of phone calls on a semi-regular basis:
1) Me: Hello?  Person: Hey, I’ve got a question about grammar.../How do you spell..
2) Me: Hello?  Person: Hey, I need a good book to read.  Got any suggestions?
Now, I could talk about grammar all day long (and probably will at some point post some things about the appropriate way to use ellipses and apostrophes), but OBVIOUSLY I want to talk about books first.
About eight years ago, I was working at a restaurant as a hostess at night while I finished my student teaching practicum.  A very cute boy I worked with walked up to the hostess stand and handed me a book, earmarked at several pages.  Practically engaged to Scott, I had barely talked to this guy before (despite and because of his ridiculous Abercrombie and Fitch exterior).  He winked and said, “I think you’ll like this.”
I mean, I guess it was known that I was studying to be an English teacher, so it wasn’t so strange, but oh my GAWD...I started reading, and every page was full of sex and love and poetry.  And poetic sex.  And sexy love.  And lovely poetry.  And in between the  sexy poetry and poetic love, there was some funny, funny stuff.  I spent the rest of the night sneaking peeks at the book, and each time it was time to seat Hotboy’s section, I’d get twitchy and make someone else do it (this was my prerogative, of course, as Head Hostess).  At one point in the evening, he came back to the hostess stand to tell me he was cut for the night and asked if I wanted to go next door with him and some of the other servers for a drink.  Maybe talk about the book?  Holy shit...who was this guy with the beautiful eyes and the washboard abs (my hand may have brushed against his stomach by complete accident) and the smarty smarts?  The talking about books and la la la la la...
My best friend, who was also a server, was going next door for drinks, too, so what could it hurt, right?  (Disclaimer: I would obviously not be telling this story if Scott didn’t already know how it ended.  Besides, there is some kind of statute of limitations for feeling guilty about cheating on your boyfriend when you’re 22.)
So, there were drinks and there was talking, and there was lots of feeling awkward and conflicted about the googly feelings going on, and then it was time to go home.  Hotboy needed a ride to his car, and clearly there was no one else who could drive him.  I was simultaneously turned on by his presence and turned off by the idea of him.  The next two minutes included driving to the employee parking lot, not leaning away when he kissed me, and watching him get in his car.  Next, I dialed Scott’s number, cried like a baby for fifteen minutes over what I’d just done, and hung up wondering if I had just ruined the best thing that ever happened to me.  I know, totally ridic.
Obviously, we worked it out, and Hotboy moved on with his life, romancing MANY more young women, I’m sure, with his literary pick-up lines.  I haven’t seen him in years, but this memory comes back to me every time someone asks me for books to read.  Because even though he left no significant impact on me otherwise, he introduced me to one of the best books I’ve ever read and in turn has caused dozens of other people to experience the magic that is Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.
I bought the book a couple of days after our dicey encounter and read it cover to cover in one sitting.  The next morning I was grieved to find out this was Foer’s ONLY book.  How could this be?  How could this masterpiece be a FIRST novel?  I’ll tell you how--when the author is only three years older than me (which made him 25 at the time of publication).  Say what?  Astounding.  So, Foer had me waiting with bated breath for three entire years before he released his second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Expecting a typical sophomoric effort, I had low expectations, and JSF (I think this will catch on one day like JFK and LBJ) made me laugh and cry within the first five pages.  Seriously.
His last book, Eating Animals, is a non-fiction look at the American food industry that makes “Food, Inc.” look like a Disney movie.  However, JSF’s storytelling abilities make even some the most unappetizing material I’ve ever read (which is saying something because I’ve read all of Chuck Palahniuk’s books) more than palatable.  It is nothing less than a masterpiece.
So, you might be wondering why I felt the need to go into such great detail about JSF and his books.  Well, my friends, first I want you to read them.  But more importantly, through a very strange series of events that all occurred this afternoon, I AM GOING TO MEET JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER tomorrow night.   And I will tell you that story next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment