It seems unfair to pit husband against wife for a literary award, even if the prize is a chicken. Of course, that wasn’t my first thought when I heard which two books I would be judging. My first thought was, Oh good. I’m going to have to gouge out my eyes after this.
It’s not so much which book I liked more as which book I hated less. Both are chock full of the preciousness and sentimentality that I hate in literature. Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
followed a nine-year-old (of course, not just any nine-year-old, a precocious nine-year-old prodigy) through the aftermath of Sept. 11. There didn’t appear to be a sincere emotion in the entire book. Everything was either posed for manipulation or appeared to be a desperate attempt to be compared to Singer or Calvino.
My problem with Foer’s writing has always been that he wears his predecessors on his sleeve. He has yet to assimilate the writers he admires into his own style, instead preferring to channel them one at a time. Take the sixth borough, for example. In Foer’s book, there is a section of New York that floated away, an obvious rip off of Italo Calvino’s book Cosmicomics
. Foer doesn’t seem to trust his own talent yet, which I have to grudgingly admit does indeed exist, and instead relies on mimicry.
As Foer has been annoying me since his first book, Everything is Illuminated
, was released, I had higher hopes for History of Love
, the book written by his wife, Nicole Krauss. Well, except for that title. And except for the fact that a twentysomething was writing about the Holocaust. And except for the love story. Really, it was just blind optimism. While not as sentimental as Foer’s book, it made up for it in sappiness. But that’s what you get for asking me to read a love story.
Really, it was kind of neck and neck
as to which book I disliked the most.
Krauss’s book focuses on Leo Gursky, a man who survived the Holocaust by hiding. He is the author of the book The History of Love
, which was published without his knowledge and credited to a friend. Krauss’s book switches back and forth from Gursky’s book to her own, but the structure never quite works. She’s not a strong enough writer to write two narratives in different enough styles to make each distinct. She’s also not a strong enough writer to make the love story anything other than overly sweet.
So really, it was kind of neck and neck as to which book I disliked the most. But what really pushed it over the edge was the flipbook in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
. Just, no.
That means my decision defaults to The History of Love
. Not that I’m very happy about that.