Q&A: Author of ‘Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close’ shares insight


Jonathan Safron Foer reads his new book, “Here I Am”.

Author of ”Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close,” Jonathan Safron Foer visited St. Edward’s University as part of the Marcia Kinsey Visiting Writer Series. 

Foer spoke with Hilltop Views Sept. 20, about his latest book, “Here I Am.”

Hilltop Views: How do your books reflect who you are and what you believe?

FOER: I don’t start books with beliefs that I want to express. I think I come to see certain beliefs just in the process of writing. There’s a quote by W. H. Autumn, the poet said, “I look at what I write so that I can see what I think,” and I think that’s really been my experience. I don’t hope to start a book with lots of ideas. I hope to end a book with lots of ideas.

HV: Is there a difference between how your writing represents you versus how you are day to day?

FOER: Totally. When I’m walking around normally, a lot of it just has to do with how I want to see myself. Or how I believe I am. Or how I want other people to see me, but when I’m writing, something more authentic just comes out.

HV: Do you think readers wrestle with the same kinds of questions that you do when writing your books?

FOER: I hope so. I mean I hope that a reader would find a place of familiarity for him or herself in the book and feel some resonance in his or her own life.

HV: In “Here I Am,” you emphasize the balance of the sacred and the everyday. Do you think how we shape our world determines  we see something as everyday or as sacred?

FOER: I think it’s how we choose to see things. Nothing is inherently sacred or inherently mundane. There’s nothing about church that is inherently more sacred than an airport bathroom. It’s just that we choose to imbue that place with sacredness. One of the things the characters in this book wrestle with is what they are choosing to imbue with importance and significance and depth and what they dismiss as being small.

 HV: What advice you might give to up-and-coming writers?

FOER: Work on what you care about. If you don’t care about it, you’re going to have a very hard time giving your best to it and giving enough to it.

But if you like it and are naturally drawn to it and want to return to it, you’ll bring your best to it. And I think so much advice like “you should do this much work everyday” is silly.

You shouldn’t have to be in the position of setting an alarm. Create a situation where you want to work. And if you don’t want to work, why force yourself?

HV: What surprised you the most when you finished your new book?

FOER: I was surprised at how different it was from my previous books. How much more domestic it is, how much bigger it is. My desire just to do certain things that I’d never wanted to do before, like stay inside conversation for as long as 20 or 30 pages, or describe how people prepare for bed.

 That was just something I’d never done before. [I usually write with] big voices, big style and then this one [most recent book] is more invested in small things.

HV: What flavor ice cream would you be if you were ice cream?

FOER: I wouldn’t be a flavor of ice cream. I like savory food more than sweets. Maybe I’d be a savory dessert like bread pudding. Something dense. Foods that resists your fork. I like foods like that.