I retract my argument

During Thursday’s class I was an avid supporter of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close not being magical realism to the point that I logged onto our blog to comment on the post about it possibly being a psychological realism in order to disagree and put the book in an undefinable area. However, I have since changed my mind thanks to the internet and search bars. I suppose that I was concentrating too much on the magical aspect of it so I looked up ‘magic’ in the Oxford English Dictionary in order to argue against the novel being magical realism and found these two interesting definitions:

An inexplicable and remarkable influence producing surprising results

without any apparent explanation

This got me to thinking that maybe Professor Sample was right. However, I might actually go as far as saying that it could be argued that there is magic in this book. If magic is indeed an event without any apparent explanation then I would say that our magic resides with Oskar’s grandfather. That I know of there is no psychological condition where a person can loose their ability to talk all together unless it was from a debilitating trauma. I know that there’s a psychological blindness but I wasn’t able to find something similar to that but with muteness. So, I would say there is no realistic way of explaining the grandfather’s loss of speech. It’s true there are events in his past that were traumatizing but the fact that he is still function enough to have his own apartment, interact with people, and marry someone seem to me what make his ailment a surprising result of his past (magic).The fact that it was never explained as anything out of the ordinary is interesting. We know he tattooed his hands, held conversations through pen and pink, and even wrote his thoughts down in the shower. I can’t think of an example where anyone pointed out the absurdity or strangeness of his not talking. It is stated that he didn’t talk and that was that.

To continue my search for the definition of magic and magic realism I went to another, but albeit less reliable, source… Wikipedia! I found an interesting quote about magical realism by Luis Leal that to me encapsulates the book as a whole, “If you can explain it, then it’s not magical realism.”. Our first discussion of the book included a quote from another teacher about her inability to talk about the novel out loud. We may be able to write about it but even from the conversations held in class and the blogs written it seems a novel that is somewhat beyond easy explanation. So I am taking the leap and a stretch to conclude with the idea that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close can, for more reasons than stated, be considered magical realism with the magic.



  1. Tiffany’s avatar

    “pen and pink” is supposed to be “pen and ink”

  2. Nik Caruso’s avatar

    Hey Tiffany. The psychological disorder that causes someone to lose their ability to talk is called ‘selective mutism’, and it ranges from being unable to talk in certain situations or to certain people all the way to full-blown mutism, as is expressed in the grandfather. Selective mutism is most often seen in children, but it does present in adults, especially if it was never treated in the child and usually worsens with age and trauma.

  3. Professor Sample’s avatar

    Ah-ha, I never thought to actually look up “magic” in the dictionary. Good move! I also like the pithy (but not entirely accurate) litmus test for magical realism, “If you can explain it, then it’s not magical realism.”

    I’ll concede that there might be a psychological explanation for Thomas’s loss of speech, but the way it goes so unremarked upon by the other characters is very much in the vein of magical realism, in which the fantastic is accepted as ordinary. Nobody questions Thomas, nobody suggests he see a doctor, and even he accepts it without question.

    It has just now occurred to me that perhaps Foer’s use of the fantastic is simply because there is no other mode of fiction adequate for describing what happened on September 11, 2001. It’s such a traumatic event, that any attempt at realism would “get it wrong.”

Comments are now closed.