Randomly on Thursday

1. I just finished reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  I didn’t love it, but I did like it.  Here’s the thing though.  The book uses creative typesetting to convey a lot of what’s going on.  Blank pages, pages with one word on them, four pages of numbers, a page where the text becomes closer and closer set until it’s ultimately overlapping and illegible and is then followed by a few dark pages. There’s different typesetting for different characters – for example, the grandmothers writing has more space between words and letters, each thought has it’s own line… more like poetry really.  When the grandfather writes, there’s little punctuation, seldom even indentation or separation for paragraphs.  There’s even photos.  It’s an interesting idea – typesetting in a way that’s extremely graphic to further convey what the author intended. 

2. I am suddenly extremely confused about the people I know who "read" this as an audiobook.  I bet they don’t even know that a big chunk of the book was graphic.

3. Does that matter? Is it still a good book? Is it as good as the author intended? What’s missing? Is it even remotely the same experience?

4. I should really be knitting the blanket.


123 thoughts on “Randomly on Thursday

  1. Several of the girls in book club hated the book because of its typography and pictures, they felt that they were hints to understand rather than additional clues to the person’s personality. I enjoyed it.

  2. I bet the audio book folks are missing out.
    I played with fonts for different characters, I think it does help while writing, I am not sure it helped in the reading though.

  3. Think of reading as cross training for knitting. It’s good to give your muscles (Mental and Physical) a break occasionally.

  4. I did ‘read’ this book as an audio book. It is still a good book. They use pauses to convey some of what you’re describing. I haven’t looked at the printed text, but I’m thinking they may have added a bit of narration to describe some of the journal page stuff, at least at the beginning. Like the pages with one word in the middle. Early on I think they said something to describe it, but later on, there was just a long pause, followed by the one word.
    And you’re right, I didn’t know about the graphic nature of the printed version, but now I’ll have to go look at it.
    Funnier: I knew the author’s mother. She was the step-sister of the daughter of one of my parent’s friends, and I was at her oldest son’s brit milah (ritual circumcision). I later lost touch with the family. When I started seeing the stuff the boys were publishing (all 3 are writers of one sort or another) I had to look them up to know which was oldest.

  5. I read it on a Kindle and I had no idea that was going on. I saw some pictures, but the rest was not part of the e-book. I understood (without seeing) that there were different points of view…I might have been distracted by all the rest.

  6. Well, I haven’t read the book or watched the movie so I’m perfectly qualified to comment! LOL
    I do know that video/film has a way of communicating that can’t be done in print and vice versa. I just watched the entire season of Lost again and I was struck once again by the creative use of video techniques to convey information about the characters and the ‘where and when” of the scene. That information would have been hard to transmit in a book, I think.
    On the other hand, I normally won’t view a film interpretation of a book I loved because the film rarely matches my interpretation of the book.
    Books tap directly into our imaginations and allow us to interpret the author’s words. Film tends to tell us what to think but there are notable exceptions.
    I don’t think you can compare the two media fairly. I think there are as different as writing about a sweater, the idea of it, the feeling of comfort, it’s place in society and history etc., writing a pattern for a sweater and posting a video of someone knitting a sweater.
    Film and books both have their place and one isn’t better than the other in an absolute way, just different.

  7. What Presbytera said. Including the slacker comment. GO KNIT THE BLANKET, else you’ll be up until 3 in the morning working on it someday soon, rushing to finish. You avoided that at Christmas, you can avoid it again!

  8. I’ve been listening to audiobooks for the past couple of years. (I can listen & knit; I can’t read & knit.) Sometimes, I think a particular book can have an added wonderfulness to the story in the audio format because of the narrator.
    However, there is often quite a bit of thought and artistry and meaning embedded in the choice of typeface, spacing, with how the words appear on the page, etc. I would very much hate to lose that part of the author’s creation. There are books (such as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) where such decisions are an integral part of the story.
    If I had to choose, I’d choose a real, in-the-paper book over audio or e-readers.

  9. “The Raw Shark Texts” by Steven Hall is another book that uses typography in a visually creative way (although differently than in the book you read). It’s delightful, and absolutely essential to the narrative.

  10. Well, just to add another question –
    is that really writing?
    Because it seems to me that the graphics are a bit of a cop-out. The author doesn’t have to work as hard to convey their message through good writing, proper punctuation, thoughtful word choice. Just make the page darker when the message is dark. Why work on developing the language of a character when you can just indicate a different character is speaking by changing the typesetting.
    I say all this without having read the book, but I serious doubt I would like such a book. Just the description annoys me.

  11. Thanks – I will go for the library edition, rather than the iPad Kindle. Also, if you like the visual, check out the Griffin and Sabine trilogy plus. Amazing.

  12. I listened Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as an audiobook, and had no idea the author used creative typesetting at all until reading this post. I’m sure reading it would have been a very different experience. In the audiobook version, they use different readers for the narrator, grandmother, etc., which has a nice effect as well.

  13. I don’t normally read books with that much typographical showiness, but a lot of books I read have italics to denote inner thoughts. This is mostly fine until you have 3 or 4 pages of italics. I don’t mind the graphical separation, but most of the time it is unnecessary.

  14. Well, thanks! You just saved me. LOL I was on the fence about seeing this movie, and I was on the fence about reading the book. I read spoilers of the movie and decided to give it a pass, but then I started thinking about reading the book.
    After this post? Not a chance in hell.
    This kind of thing drives me NUTS. This is a writer who is WRITING GREAT ART, not someone driven to tell a story. And if your sole interest is WRITING GREAT ART, then the story is secondary, and I pick up a book to read a great story, not to be led by the hand through the GREAT ARTIST’s idea of visual anvils to make sure I get that he has WRITTEN GREAT ART. It’s not. It’s a book. Great books are art themselves, because they’re stories readers can connect with. They fire our imagination and our consciousness and take us away from the real world, or expose us to views of that same world we didn’t know existed. Good stories don’t need to beat the reader about the head to make sure we understand. Write a good story. That’s what writers should do. The reader will make up their mind whether it was GREAT ART or not. That’s not for the writer to decide.
    I’ll pass on all counts.

  15. I listen to a lot of audiobooks (can knit and listen), and I can’t imgagine how a book like that would work as an audiobook. I did realize after listening to all of the Jasper Fforde Thursday Next books that I had no idea how any of the names were spelled.

  16. I am so inspired by your blanket that I too have finished the extremely boring center square and even tho I know that you will whisk through your border while I am stuck on the endless setup row, I am enjoying this (involuntary on your part) KAL. thanks for all you do!

  17. Oooh, I may have to get the paper book if I decide to read this one. I’m kind of a typography/layout geek, so it sounds cool to me.
    Graphics could be a cop-out, as someone mentioned above, but not necessarily – the typography and layout could also work hand-in-hand with the usual writing methods of conveying different characters, etc. in order to reinforce the effect(s).

  18. I read the book, and I think I agree with you. I liked it, but didn’t love it. My problem was that I couldn’t get into the grandparents’ storyline at all. I liked Oskar, but the rest left me cold. I found the text changes and images interesting additions (I think of them as enhancements to the story, not cop-outs as one commenter said.) I loved Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close wasn’t as great. That said, Foer is creative at finding different voices to tell his stories. I’m always so amazed when an author can create so many different voices in one work (best example of this that I’ve read is Posession by A.S. Byatt, fwiw).

  19. As a (once and future) poet, I’ve always felt that prose is at times overly formal, and not at all appropriate to the message, at times. I am on an ongoing search to combine poetic ideas and visuals and concepts with the act of telling a story. An epic poem is too formal as well. But a LOT of people (my husband showed me this for the first time, which blew my mind) don’t know HOW to read poetry or let the typesetting set the stage. You put Mary Oliver in front of him and he reads a single run-on sentence with no pauses whatsoever. Everything of the pacing is lost, and yet here we’re talking about a voracious reader whose comprehension skills are usually fantastic.
    Since then I’ve concluded that poetry is simply not taught in public schools outside of (completely dense and impenetrable to the modern reader) Shakespeare, and everyone is the poorer for it. If all you’ve ever been exposed to is that kind of poetry, the whole entire genre is written off, and goes wholly unappreciated. Sucks.
    I highly encourage you to experiment! Write a page a stitch at a time!

  20. We (my husband and I) listen to audio books because he is really not a reader. I know – go figure. But I am a reader so I frequently get to experience the same book in two different ways (not counting a movie). And I do view it as two different experiences. Reading lets me create my own experience as I go along. The audio book experience is always influenced by the reader. Their inflections and language patterns really color that experience for me, making it more a shared experience than the intimacy of reading the words alone.
    Just my thoughts.

  21. Omigosh, I just finished that book too! My reaction is much the same as yours — I liked it, but didn’t *love* it. I thought the typography, photos and so on were often charming and mostly used very effectively, but sometimes all that extra stuff going on drove me a little crazy and struck me as precious, affected, mannered. Still, I loved Oskar so much as a character that I was (mostly) willing to overlook such “flaws.” I’ve been more of a visual person most of my life, so I haven’t really tried audiobooks yet, but I’d like to start, since it would be a lovely to have someone telling me a story while I knit. It doesn’t sound from the other comments like they did this for the audiobook, but since Oskar and his grandparents were all writing in the first person, seems to me it would have been nice/appropriate to “cast” an old woman reading the grandmother’s chapters, an old man reading the grandfather’s, and a boy/young-sounding man as Oskar. Wouldn’t convey the photography, and those pages of numbers or black overtyped print (which, yeah, drove me nuts), but it would make it just as obvious whose point of view we’re getting as the typography does in the book. But what do I know? (:

  22. I have only listened to the audiobook. I quite enjoyed it, as they used at least three different readers for each ‘voice’ in the book. I don’t much like graphic novels and am not usually happy with too much graphic depiction in my books overall. I’m not sure I want to see the movie, as it is hard to see how they could have the boy not be a caricature in a movie. I don’t trust Hollywood… 😉

  23. I tried to “read” Incredibly Loud as an audiobook last summer and could not get into it. I felt like I was missing a big chunk of the story – and now I find out that I was! Perhaps I will give it a read; I like books with a graphic component.

  24. Never mind, apparently they did use different readers for the three characters. (That comment wasn’t up yet when I started my post.)

  25. Have you ever read *Tristram Shandy*? Published in the 1760s, an instant hit and still in print, it uses the same tricks, perhaps to better effect — I don’t know because I haven’t read ELIAC. But Laurence Sterne got there first by a long chalk.

  26. Your description reminds me of looking at a photo of a statue. It might still be good, but it’s not the same experience.
    What an interesting way for an author to promote a book as a textual experience. I bought the Spiderwick Chronicals for my son, and I noticed the care the publisher had put into the book. The paper had a lovely texture, the pages were rough cut on the edges and bound in groups. It gave a certain feel to curling up with that book that is missing from a mass-produced paperback.

  27. “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” was similar, with lots of drawings – there was so much to absorb between the words, though. I loved it!

  28. History of Love, by the author’s girlfriend, is a better book. But I don’t have any trouble with the graphics — I think it is creative.
    What I really want to know is how Presbytera scored the very first comment! I, for one, understand about the blanket. There is something a little bit oppressive about it. Deadline knitting is not my favorite. Really nice when it is finished — that’s what you must keep telling yourself.

  29. I really loved the book. I read it in traditional book form, and I do think an audiobook would lose some of what the author was trying to convey.
    And I think Linda the Guppy might want to give it a chance. It is a serious work . It is not someone using novelty typesetting just for its own sake ( like those 50’s movies designed to make movies in 3-D).

  30. I think that is a very interesting question. I have not read this book, but I did read and enjoy “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins. She writes about her daughter’s crystal meth habit in poetic verse from her daughter’s perspective in the first person. There is a lot of visual structure to the writing which I believe did significantly contribute to the reading experience. It was very effective at reflecting the tumultuous emotional changes the main character experienced and heightened your ability as a reader to viscerally feel them.

  31. I’m going to read this book now. I bought it for my Kindle so I wonder if the different typesets and photos are translated on the ebook version. Saw the movie last weekend and loved it. I am interested to see how the two versions compare. The boy who portrays Oscar is very talented young actor.
    Can’t wait to see the blanket with the border some day. Baby blankets seem like small projects when you think of making one but turns out to be a bigger project in the end. Good luck with it!

  32. @jennifer- i also feel the same way about the ellen hopkins novel. i don’t generally like that kind of writing/art but seeing and reading at the same time do allow authors to give such rich subtext. i don’t think that hearing a book like that read really gives the scope of the work… i would think, anyway. next time this book comes through my librarian hands, i will be giving it a much closer look. (ps- knit the blanket. time be running out, yo.)

  33. I haven’t read the book at all and I haven’t listened to it or seen the movie. And it makes me wonder about how they put these books to audio, like “E.L.A.I.C.”, “The invention of Hugo Cabret” or Brian Selznick’s latest “Wonderland”. So much of what the book conveys is in the visual – Wonderland has pictures that tell one half of the story – and words that tell the other half, same as Hugo Cabret. I have to respectfully disagree that it is a cop-out on the part of the writer, as some others have put it – the thought that goes into telling the story graphically in conjunction with the words makes the characters almost more real.

  34. I have to say, I really liked this book, and our book group, who read it, had an amazing discussion about it, about 9/11, and about autism. I just saw the movie last week, and was also fairly impressed–it is not identical to the movie, but the young actor who plays the boy ought to get an Oscar. Really remarkable acting to convey his struggle. And the type and font and space use? Well–why not? Some things words can convey. Some things work better with color or photography or gesture or song. It didn’t bother me, although I can see where it could be distracting. We just added the “why did the author choose to do this?” question to our discussion in book group last year.
    I would love to know about that one ball of yarn, too. But you are not a slacker in my mind. I can never decide whether to read or to knit. It makes it hard to plan the day.

  35. I read this as an eBook, and realized I was missing a lot with the graphic layout. I still enjoyed the writing immensely, but I wish I had bought the physical book instead. I’m trying to save trees and space in my house by cutting back on printed books, but at times like this it’s very frustrating.

  36. I really appreciated the graphic nature of the book. What I think it conveyed very well, although very subtly, was the graphic nature of New York City in the weeks and months following 9/11. The amputation of such a significant piece of our skyline let me to see the rest of it the city so differently. And the sudden abundance of flags changed the color scheme of our community as well. These these, among others, led me to a heightened awareness of space and shape and I thought the design of the book captured that.

  37. Loved that book! Probably because of the fun formatting! Just went to see the movie last week and they did a great job of it…still liked the book better, though!
    Have you tried “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime?” Also a good one!

  38. Best use of typesetting in plot: House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. Very good, and very creepy. (I don’t think you could do it in audio form.)

  39. Well, this was a fascinating discussion and I’m so glad that you mentioned the typesetting of this book. It sounds like many people resent having the author mixing up left brain stuff (words and logic) with right brain stuff (space and typesetting changes.) I don’t know how I’d deal with it in the actual, but in the abstract it sounds pretty interesting.

  40. i read it and liked it for the typesetting, too. right now i’m reading a really great book called “Skippy Dies” that has some of the same visual aspects and different writting styles for each charachter. i feel that “Skippy Dies” is more cohesive overall. you can tell the differences, but it doesn’t shock you out of the flow of the book. any way- if you’re looking for something to read next… and it’s a hell of a lot funnier, too. 🙂

  41. That sounds like a very interesting book. Thank you for telling me about it, Stephanie. My trouble is that most of the indie bookstores I shop don’t carry graphic novels. Any suggestions, anyone. I live in British Columbia. I shop at bookstores on Vancouver Island.

  42. i work in a library and we had many patrons and staff inform us in horror that there was underlining,markings and misprinted pages. It took alot to convince them that this was intended. It was more than some could phathom.

  43. I hvaen’t read that book but I have read “Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” It has a lot of pictures in it– the story would still be good without them but I think you’d miss out on a lot by getting it only as an audio book.

  44. I saw the movie before I read the book — and the two, while having the same title, were completely different experiences. Your observation is the same one I made about The Book Thief and Hugo Cabret. I think some of these genres with the creative use of typesetting, pagination and graphics do not translate completely to other mediums (or is that media?). They become something else (although that is not necessarily a bad thing).

  45. Well, this is one book I won’t be reading. I have no problem whatsoever with graphics or pictures if they are used cleverly, or even different typefaces – but the one word per page, changing the letter spacing crap is just gimmicky and, in my opinion, lazy. The author is clearly trying very hard to be “cutting edge,” and I agree with Linda the Guppy that it is pretentious. A lot of “literary fiction” is pretentious, in my opinion, which is why I mostly read mysteries, children’s books, classics, fantasy, biography, history, memoir, essays, and those who write with a sense of humor (like you, Stephanie). Really great writers have stories, ideas, observations, etc. they are eager to share; they don’t worry about impressing the reader with how clever or “deep” they are.

  46. I was a student of postmodern lit in college, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was one of the first books I read that pretty much knocked me on my behind, crazy typography and all. It’s not gimmicky so much as I think it’s an experiment in reader experience–how *does* it change your experience of the book? What does it do for the way you understand the story? The graphics *are* the story, not just a clever device.
    Foer’s not the only writer experimenting with that kind of stuff–Nabokov does in his novel Pale Fire, for example, as does Douglas Coupland in Microserfs (which was great) and JPod (which was not so great, mostly because it’s a self-parody of Microserfs, and THAT drove *me* crazy).

  47. I am reading in on my Nook. I keep hoping it will get better. The first time I came to a place with several blank pages I thought there was something wrong with my Nook.

  48. I only read tour books.I don’t ‘get’avant gaurd books.Anne Rice being my fave author stopped writing.So now I go everywhere with a hank of yarn & assortment of needles.These are my security things.I get very mean & ‘evil’if I am not touching my merino.I also ind it hard to read & knit at the same time.You’re a better woman than I am or Reading this book.Knitting blogs are so much more interesting!

  49. The book was our “One Book, One Region “book. I could not get through it and I intend to give the movie a miss too. What i read of it made no sense and wasted my reading time. How does it change my experience of the book ? Thwak. That is the book closing.
    Knit. Babies sometime come earlier than you expect them to.

  50. Coming late the party on this one. Leann said it first… Based on your description (I have not read it), it sounds like this generation’s version of Griffin and Sabine.
    I find when I am reading, I want to use my own imagination about the characters. I think this is how people can be disappointed when a movie is made of their favorite book (or a movie is re-done). Like the voice for Garfield when they did a TV show never matched the voice of that fat cat in my head.
    Consequently, the kinds of “experience” writing strikes me more like graphic novels or movies than plain vanilla writing. I loved the Griffin and Sabine graphic product, but I never really considered it a story, instead more like I was a voyeur in somebody’s relationship. (Were these early graphic arts voyeuristic experiences the precursor to reality TV and graphic novels?).
    I consider movie adaptations of books a different kind of entertainment and generally unrelated to the original work; maybe I know the plot of the story before I go to sit in a dark theater (unless Disney changes it). I try to avoid going to movies until I read a book, however, if it’s a book I want to read, because I would prefer the original before I see a “translation”. The same reason I study languages to read a native language before I read somebody’s translation. And the same reason why we should read Shakespeare rather than Cliff’s notes.

  51. This is the beauty of books; some are brought to life through a readers voice, some are easily read on my kindel and others become wonderful friends as I turn the page. I love them all.

  52. Knit… I havent read the book. Many times, though, I have read books that were meant to be similarly thought provoking. They only lead my mind to wander on meaningless threads of thought that had no bearing on anything except, in the end, wasting my time and contributing to reduced focus on what is really important… like a lovingly hand-crafted blankie for a new baby. Never forget, but keep moving forward. 🙂

  53. @Susan. Thanks for getting there first. Tristram Shandy deserves a wider audience than it currently enjoys.
    I think it’s interesting that people have such strong viewpoints re: an author’s pretentiousness or not, the appropriateness of non-standard graphical cues to convey artistic intent, etc. Artists in other fields (like, say, knitting) are allowed extensive ranges of techniques for self-expression, but writers are almost never allowed the same freedom to approach their medium (language) in an exploratory way. Even post-modern poets are not “allowed” to stray far from current textual norms (epic poetry is “too formal”, even, I’m guessing, Walcott’s Omeros or Williams’ Paterson).
    I mean, let’s cut writers some slack for once. It’s fine to say “eh, not my thing”, but claiming someone is pretentious for exploring a technique…next, let’s bash anyone that tries entrelac!
    Writers have enough strikes against them without having to carry the expectations of every potential reader around on their shoulders. I meet many people who claim they could write a book (or poetry) if they only had the time once they find out I’m a writer. My decades of practice and struggle (and outright war) with my medium aren’t even considered…no, every doctor and lawyer thinks he or she can write!

  54. I loved that book. I like his other books too but “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is a bit lower on the list than some of the other works.

  55. I “read” almost all my book on cd in my car and while I knit. There are times . . . like right now . . . when the protagonist is thinking in his head some pretty graphic thoughts and I can’t tell if he’s saying them out loud or in his head and I’m all confused.
    A funny and odd little book is Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austin and Ben H. Winters

  56. That sounds really cool. Have you ever read “Ella Minnow Pea”? One of the most clever novels I’ve ever read – and also one that wouldn’t work as an audio book.

  57. How cool… I’m actually currently listening to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – and am trying to figure out how they made it a movie because it’s so narrative. I think that the fact that there are 3 people who read the book, so that the characters have different voices in a literal sense helps. I’ll have to pick up a hard copy though, to see what the text looks like. I was getting the sense that there were some single word pages because of the way that the grandfather communicates, but I’ve read things that were like that before. Angels and Demons is also difficult as Audio, because of the ambigrams. Sometimes when listening to epic fantasy like Robert Jordan or George RR Martin, I wish for copies of the maps. But it’s much harder to knit (or drive, or weed, or do dishes, or clean the tub) while reading on paper.

  58. To all the commenters who responded they wouldn’t like this book – wait! it isn’t every page that is creatively typeset. This was definitely not a cop out, lazy way to write. The author was taking advantage of all possible means of expression to maximize impact.
    I loved this book. My stoic daughter loved it and we connected over it and to this day send each other messages of love because of it. I’m afraid to watch the movie for fear it won’t live up to my experience of the book.

  59. That’s a really interesting question. I guess I don’t think that any audio book is exactly the same experience as reading the book off the page, but this really puts a fine point on it, doesn’t it? You would have the same issue with a book like The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The author says the images “help tell the story,” but there is an audiobook version. Hm.

  60. Haven’t read the book (admit abashedly that I did not even KNOW it was a book), but I will read it now. I am fascinated by the power punctuation holds in narrative, but have never considered how font and white space can be tools as well. Thanks for the tip!

  61. Amazing the number of people who are willing to dismiss a book they haven’t even opened. This retired typesetter has not been impressed yet by a graphic novel, but that just means that it must be more challenging than writing on its own is. However I completely understand that typography is art too, and deserves a lot more recognition, and has a lot more creative potential, than most people realize.So someone is trying to create a synergy between typography and storytelling–more power to them! Didn’t someone called Wagner try to do that for music? Not everyone likes his stuff, but you don’t hear many people saying that making the attempt was a waste of time.

  62. I really enjoyed the book, and the graphics, once I figured out that my Nook wasn’t going insane, really did add something – the personalities of the characters. It was very creative. I don’t know if they can convey the same feel in the movie.

  63. How interesting. I had no idea it was typeset like that. As a poet and a writer, I’m interested in reading it now — there is a lot to be said for the use of white space on the page.

  64. I did not know that it was typeset like that, but I have now lost all interest in reading it. In general, that is a tactic I dislike a lot. Blank pages or chapters or pages with only one word drive me crazy. I find it to be an overdramatic tactic. To me, it is the sort of tactic that turns a good book into a smutty soap opera.
    I could see your point about a book like that not translating well to audiobook though.
    I also agree with another commenter about Ella Minnow Pea. Fun story that could not be an audiobook.
    Maybe I should read more print books…

  65. I love that book, and think the graphic stuff adds to the story in a beautiful way. Not to spoil it for the many commenters who have – ahem- not read it, but have griped about it, the flip book at the end was, for me, the most perfect way to convey the horror, finality and emotion of that free-fall through a child’s imagination.
    I also really enjoyed The Raw Shark Texts though, so perhaps I have a high tolerance for unusual writing. 🙂

  66. I read the book a couple of weeks ago. I did’t love it either, apart from Oskar’s character. B?ut I didn’t hate it, and I want to reread it, to see how it fits together. It’s definitely unusual, and it’s making me want to see how they made it into a film.

  67. I suggest a good book stand so that your reading time doesn’t entirely shut down your knitting. (Also good for shoehorning those meals into the day.)

  68. I’ve been reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close too. But on an e-reader…where some, but not all of those typography features are visible. I was wondering if I was perhaps missing something.

  69. Read it, didn’t love it. But I also read it on a Kindle, and some of the typeface things were there, some were not. The random pictures of doorknobs annoyed me, though! Maybe they were spaced out in a meaningful way in the paper book.
    Go knit!

  70. I’m so glad you read that, .. because I did love it & I forgot about the typesetting issue. Now, I’m remembering how strange it is to try to have a conversation via blogging.

  71. I’m so glad you read it, … because I did love it and forgot about the typesetting issue. Now I’m remembering how odd it is to have a conversation via blogging.

  72. A good book to think about while you knit.
    I read it as part of a university book discussion group which was eye-opening.
    A friend/neighbour who started working in a multistorey building around the time of 9/11 used to find the jumping of the bungy-jumpers in a close building too fear-inspiring to enjoy the experience, and my relating it to the end pages of the book with its photos, all too real, and the images still play inside my head.
    Some of the explanations that come at the end of the book made the Oskar’s journeys a little less scary – the thought of a young boy walking around NY on his own, and the difficulty that silence can make on harbouring a secret, is a longstanding trope with me.

  73. I’ve read that book. Like you, didn’t love it, but I appreciated having read it. Heartbreaking.
    Have you read The Book Thief? That’s one I LOVED – made me cry and the narrator was a bit disturbing to start with, but it was wonderful. The typesetting is quite important in that one, too.
    Knitting does provide an excellent opportunity to ponder things, but I generally find that if I’m too caught up in my pondering, that’s when I make froggable mistakes!

  74. I’ve listened to the audiobook and I did not know that it had this graphic element.
    Maybe that’s why I didn’t like it all that much… It did have different voices, though…

  75. I haven’t read it, and don’t really intend to – to be honest I don’t really a lot of modern literary fiction (prefer classics, 19th C, or genre), and the reviews of it didn’t really appeal. That said I wouldn’t reject a book just because of graphic element. It could be really interesting – or it could be crap. It all depends very much on the author’s skill at handling it, and whether it becomes an integral part of the work or a sales gimmick.

  76. Not quite like the book or movie dilemma but it is similar. I listened to the audiobook and it was very special. They used multiple readers for the book so it was easy to tell that the author had changed voices. I had been told about the graphic nature of the book, so when I finished the book I headed off to the library to look through a paper copy. I just loved the idea of time going backwards, of the drawings of that happening.
    It’s interesting how for some the different voices did not make them like it more, but I did. And some narrator’s make or break a story. There are some books I love to read in the paper form, but all in all, I love audiobooks because they give me a chance to experience more books – and I can walk or knit or drive whiling experiencing them.

  77. [I’m with Presbytera. What are you doing with the first (odd-)ball of yarn?]
    Unconventionally-styled books often turn me off at first, but I may change my mind upon second or third reading. I think the format of this one sounds pretty cool. I can’t do audiobooks in any case–my mind drifts and I wake up half a chapter later with no clue of what’s going on–but I do feel that this sort of format would lose something in the recording.

  78. I just saw the movie of E.L.I.C. and I am intrigued to know that about the print version. I will definitely have to check it out now to see if that adds another layer to the story portrayed via film. I do think the audiobook version would be lacking without awareness of the author’s use of the typeset to convey more insight into characters. However, a film can use so much in the way of visual cues, soundtrack etc.. that maybe the same message is conveyed. Thanks for the tip! And on the knitterly front, I can’t wait to see the finished blanket! I am a big fan of blanket knitting. There’s a moment where you hit the rhythm of the pattern and it just lulls you as you go merrily along.

  79. I listed to the audiobook (several years ago) and had no idea about the typeface. The audiobook used different actors for the different voices, which I really liked- most audiobooks are just one actor putting on different tones/etc. for each person.

  80. I did read the book-Kindle version-and didn’t really enjoy it. It just didn’t seem to make any sense to me that this child would wander around NY and people would let him into their homes. Maybe the movie will be better.

  81. As a writer and a knitter, I’m interested by all the foregoing comments.
    Perhaps the answer is that writing (reading, too) and knitting are intensely personal experiences, wide open to extremes of input and interpretation. That is why we love them so much – a person who was not a reader couldn’t become so passionate about a novel either way, just as a non-knitter would be utterly mystified by this blog or the plethora of sock-knitting classes out there.
    There is room for every viewpoint and skill level within the discipline.

  82. I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on the Nook. The pictures were there, but the typesetting did not change. Now I want to read the paper copy! I think this type of creativity is wonderful.
    Another book with creative typesetting and structure is The House of Leaves. I totally recommend it. In fact, I want to go back and read it myself (for the third time).

  83. Steph, I thought the book was creative and liked the child a lot. You might want to try his first book, Everything Is Illuminated. It was really good and incredibly funny.

  84. My all time favorite graphic novel was The Complete Persepolis. Wonderful graphics and a powerful story. Completely knocked my socks off. I guess I better learn to knit socks that aren’t large enough to fit over a cast!

  85. One comment suggested that using the text to convey meaning wasn’t writing (the phrase “cop-out” was used). To me that’s like suggesting photography isn’t art (some do).
    I had no knowledge of the graphics nature of the book–I don’t think I’ll read it, but I know that even the choice of font can convey so much meaning (without the reader even realizing it). Skilled graphic artists can only improve quality writing (but if they think too much of themselves, their work can get in the way of good writing). Seems to me you feel the work was partnered well with the text style and that they complimented each other.

  86. If you like that sort of thing check out:
    Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
    Book by Robert Grudin

  87. I haven’t read this, so can’t comment on the book specifically, but I do think that reading a book and listening to it are two different forms, for several reasons:
    1. Listening is much slower. Most people can read much faster than they can speak, and that has to affect the experience of the book. I’ve read well-paced books that were so compelling that you don’t notice some of their flaws until afterward- with the slower pace of an audiobook, that changes. At the same time, there will be things that a slower-paced experience will let you appreciate, that you might miss when reading.
    2. The voices on the audiobook matter. In a spoken form, using different voices- or even a single reader using different intonations or accents for different characters- cannot help but color the book to some extent with their own interpretation. It may be a great interpretation- but it’s still another layer between the writer and the audience. (For example, think about the experience of an audiobook read by an actor vs a computerized text to speech reader- no comparison.)
    And those are considerations for books without graphic elements. I’d think the experience for books with strong graphic elements would be even more different.
    And last- a recommendation- if you have never heard it before, the radio play version of Star Wars was absolutely awesome.

  88. Adaptation is a fascinating enterprise for sure. What is the spirit of a work? How do you translate it into another medium? Sometimes it’s something we joke about, like those novelizations of movies. Sometimes the spirit of a work is so tied to its medium that to talk about adaptating it sounds absurd…abstract painting, for example. I wonder if it’s any less absurd to talk about turning a written work into a film. Most film adaptations concentrate all of their energy into communicating what “happened” in the written work, but so much of writing is not about plot.

  89. Thanks for this! My son is in graphic design and he is doing a thesis project on the use of typography to convey meaning. This is exactly the kind of thing he is looking for. Neither one of us knew about it and I am going to order it for him. I assume the same typography is used in the hardcover and paperback editions? I can’t tell from Amazon since they are mostly not showing those pages.

  90. The Adventures of Hugo Cabret was somewhat similar. A few words, then a LOT of illustration. I doubt it would have translated well into an audio book.

  91. I just finished listening to the book (audible) and I had no idea about the written book’s unique qualities, but is loved this book. It made me laugh, cry, and I thought about it when I wasn’t listening to it. To me, that is the mark of a good book-if I think about it when I am driving, or lying in bed, or while doing dishes. It made me think about what mattered.

  92. I got the free sample of that book for my Nook, and was not impressed enough to order the book. Maybe I’ll check it out from the library instead.

  93. I’m late commenting here, but I simply can’t resist chiming in with the five or six people who recommended Laurence Sterne’s *Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.* It’s brilliantly, wickedly funny. For those who’d like a similar but more contemporary read, Dave Eggers’ *A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius* is also great (see? the “pretentiousness” is built right into the title 😉 ). I’m intrigued by descriptions of ELAIC. IMO, the additional challenges such books present make the reading all the more rewarding.

  94. If you want two more “interesting” books, try A Humument by Tom Phillips and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. If you want an audio book version of House of Leaves, the author’s sister (Poe) recorded an album covering the same narrative.

  95. If you thought Extremally Loud and Incredibly Close was interesting in its use of visual changes to convey a message, you should see Foer’s latest work “Tree of Codes”. I work at a library and the first time I saw that book I thought someone had defaced it! Foer basically took the short story “Street of Crocodiles” by Bruno Schulz and sliced out (literally)words, sentences and paragraphs to make a new story. Reading it was difficult to say the least, since you have to hold each page at an angle in order to seperate the words on that page from the ones beneath it. Bizarre!

  96. In all the years that I’ve been reading your blog and attending signings and following the progress of your many, many designs and projects, not once have I ever pictured you with the time to sit and read a book. I’m thrilled that you do. Have the time, I mean.

  97. I wonder if there are yarn/knitting stores in the Dominican Republic? Just think of the adventure!
    Have a wonderful time! Cherish, cherish this time with your mother.

  98. I am in the middle of reading this book. It has a level of discomfort in it, that I think the author very much intended, to show how people deal with trauma, and the actual truth is, dealing with trauma is not a happy Hollywood movie. I know. For real. Several years ago, my husband was held up at gunpoint, with the gun against his head, at his workplace. What we went thru the next year while he tried to deal with the aftermath was not pretty, and I see this in the novel. I also think it is a brilliant novel, detailed and complex and intense. So much so I am reading one chapter at a time, putting it down, and thinking about it for a few days, because emotionally, I have to process it before I can move on. The graphic nature of this novel is very alluring, and I am enjoying that aspect of it very much.

  99. I can’t decide if that’s brilliant or completely, absolutely annoying. I’ll still read it, though, so I can find out for myself.

  100. I just read this book on a kindle. Some of these pages were fine – but there was one in particular that I needed to see what color they had used. I had to make a trio to the bookstore to figure it out.

  101. I remember when we read James Joyce’s “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man” we learned that he also wanted descriptive typography using fonts and colors and whatever. I believe the publisher had an issue with it and it got either squashed or toned down, I can’t remember which.

  102. I recently read the Hunger Games books, and then listened to the audio books (I spend a lot of time in cars, driving to and from work) and it was a super different experience. The way the person doing the audio read it made certain characters whiny that I really didn’t think should have been whiny. Audio books definitely seem like a different experience (IMO) 🙂

  103. I came late to this comment thread but had to weigh in . I just finished reading this story on my Sony e-reader. Sony uses the EPUB format which apparently does not support typeface changes like the one in the printed book. An hour into it, I wanted to meet the author so I could punch him in the head.
    I had no idea who was talking and what the hell they were talking about. Once I figured out that the author was using the “look at how clever I am” storytelling method, I think I sprained something rolling my eyes so hard. I now no longer wanted only to punch the author in the head. I wanted to line up the author, Oskar, his mother, both grandparents and the copy editor and give them all amighty and resounding Three Stooges Serial Slap!

  104. I set type for 20 years and every typeface does tell a story. But boy, I would never read anything of length that jumps between typestyles. Ultimately I would find it extremely annoying.

  105. I think it depends on the book, but most writers seem to agree that they meant their work to be experienced in print – different media give different impressions and allow for different tools and dynamics. But sometimes a good story is just a good story.
    I do need to read that book – fascinating!

  106. I also recently finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I did love it. In 2001, I lived less than an hour outside of NYC and my memory of 9/11 centers on collecting my youngest brother from school and seeing all the young people in the halls sobbing or staring blankly because they or their friends had parents working in NYC, but didn’t know exactly where. So I think I related to the novel on a very personal level, following a child whose father shouldn’t have been there, but died there anyway. I thought Oskar was a real inspiration.

  107. I just want to say that my Dad has lost his vision 10 yrs ago, and thanks to audio books he has not had to give up his love of READING. He does not miss out on anything by having someone else narrate that story, it is almost better sometimes.

  108. I loved this book. I also love just about any book with creative typesetting. Near the end, when the type gets mushed into words with no spaces it totally adds to the emotion of the story and I ended up with tears streaming down my face. Very powerful.
    Another book that does this – and uses many other creative writing ideas, including an entire parallel story written solely in the footnotes – is House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski.

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