Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
This morning, I finished my 'long read', Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer, brought with me on my extended weekend trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. This was Foer's first novel in 11 years and I have had it on my shelf for a while. I had been counting down to its release, at which point I promptly bought it, but then it managed to spend a solid few months on my shelf. I don't know why. I think it is because I loved his books when I was younger, and I no longer knew how he would measure up to my memory of him.
I still could not tell you whether or not he held up, because I would have to reread his previous three books and see if they made me feel how I remember feeling. And even then, I would not know if the feelings I was remembering were what I had actually felt years before. BUT, in any case, I enjoyed reading this book, and its 571 pages were not ones you crawled through. It was easy to get immersed in the stories of the Bloch family, an American Jewish family comprised of husband, wife, three sons, grandma, grandpa, Israeli Jewish cousins, and great grandfather, without ever feeling stuck. Foer has an incredible talent for dialogue, which both sweeps you up and allows you to seep in it, like you are living, feeling and moving along with the conversation because you are somehow a part of it. His dialogue is so incredible that it makes me think it has to be based on his life in some way.
And those rumors are there, in that many readers and reviewers stated that the disintegration of the marriage between husband and wife in this book did in fact hint at the divorce between Foer and his previous wife and fellow author, Nicole Krauss. If that is the case, and I am more and more convinced it is, then he did a wonderful, truthful, mournful job of illustrating this process. (I could not help but investigate these rumors, and was surprised to see Natalie Portman might have played a real role. See this and this article to catch my drift.)
This is the story of family, faith, instability, doubt, love and legacy. How much of father lives on in son? Where does marriage leave individuals after its done? How do rituals of faith continue to shape congregates and further be shaped by new generations of believers? And how does one simultaneously live through his life, as husband, father and son, and somehow also wall himself off from it? When does self-preservation lead to one's own demise? At what point do we simply prevail as ourselves? It was a pleasure to see how Foer revealed all of this in this long, but powerful, read, showing, not too discretely, Here I Am.