What better way to start my new media book riffing than with a Thai outdoor lunch in Pasadena and Jonathan Safran Foer’s wonderful book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – a book that stands on the cusp between traditional text writing and the multimedia books of the future.
I took myself to this Thai lunch on August 5 – immediately after posting my success at uploading my second blog post, changing the template from the default one and figuring out how to back up my database. It was a beautiful day in Pasadena, so I treated myself to Thai beef salad at an outdoor cafe, and took Foer along with me. I had the patio to myself, as you can see. This restaurant is a couple blocks east of Old Town Pasadena central. I hear that Old Town has become a famous tourist destination. When I first moved to southern California, not that long ago, I was warned to stay away from it! Winos and vacant buildings and riff raff. Some writers I met in the MFA program at Antioch University LA, upon learning that I was a new media writer, asked if I had read Foer’s book. It was not until I opened it and began to read as I ate my Thai beef salad and sipped jasmine tea that I understood why. The book uses images to wonderful effect to tell the story – not just to illustrate it. It’s a great story – modern. Modern story, modern construction, modern style. I’ve been feeling pretty alone writing new media novels and book reviews in my master’s program. As I sat reading, eating and staring at the fake, but beautiful, facade to Gelson’s (it’s a supermarket!) across the street from the Thai restaurant on Colorado, I found a literary friend in Foer. He thinks in pictures like I do. He is not worried that people will trivialize his work, call it a graphic novel – all because they have been taught that picture books are for children (or that illustrations belong in the middle of the book all clumped together.) Some people might call Foer’s book experimental; I think he is just telling the story the best way he can, and those pictures help him do that. I bet some people will read his book and feel a little thrill when they start to encounter those images – a sense that they are misbehaving themselves by reading a picture book as an adult! By the time I left the restaurant, I was halfway through the book. I’d had a lovely afternoon in the company of a good story and a writing comrade, and absorbed my required quotient of vitamin D from the sunny day while the other restaurant patrons sat inside in the dark, bookless. As I pulled my car out of the very convenient parking place I had found right out front, I watched my waitress clear my table, place a new piece of white paper and clean silverware on it, and erase the fact that I had been there. That was strange. I’ll tell you more about the book when I finish it.