I wish this was available online, but unfortunately there is no link to this interview with Jonathan Safran Foer. I came across it in Ingram’s Advance magazine, which consists mostly of ads and lists of new books coming the next month, but they usually include an article or two. They have a 3 page interview by Amy Cox Williams with JSF that reveals some really interesting stuff. Here’s some of the more salient bits.
ACW: When I interviewed you for your first book, you mentioned that your next book was set in a museum. Is that the second book you were just referring to—or is it Extremely Loud?
JSF: It’s all been the same book believe it or not; it just changed. There’s an analogy that I sometimes use, and I think it’s a good one…I was a philosophy major [ed.–oh god] and in philosophy there’s this famous problem of a boat that leaves a port and over the course of its travel every single plank in the boat is replaced, so that when it gets to the new port, let’s say it’s leaving from London and going to New York, when it gets to New York not a single piece of wood taht was in the original boat is in the boat that got to New York, so would you say that it’s the same boat or not? I mean you kind of have to say it is the same boat because what else could the passengers have come across on? On the other hand, what’s a boat if not everythking taht makes it up? SO it was the same thing with the novel. Every single word was replaced, and what’s going to be published in April has nothing in common, explicitly, with what I was working on two and a half, three years ago, but I know that I never threw one out and started another; it was happening through this process of replacing things. [ed.—a simple no would have sufficed here]
ACW: Just as in your first book there was a bit of yourself in that character. Do Oskar’s traits, his anxieties or interesting quirks, come from yourself?
JSF: Yeah. We’re actually amazingly similar [ed.–there’s shocking information]. When I was a kid I was very precocious and very weird, I guess. I used to have all these outfits I insisted on wearing, like bow ties and glitter vests [ed.—WTF?!], and I would wear rings on all my fingers. As I’ve gotten older, I guess the things that make me an individual are expressed much less explicitly. Like I think if you were to sit down with me now your first thought would not be, “This is a really interesting person.” I’ve had people who’ve read my book and then met me say, “Wow, you’re not really funny like your book is funny.” I think writing has been a way to express those things I am no longer comfortable or even capable of expressing in life. In a way, there’s also an analogy to the character, the renter who doesn’t speak but writes everything on paper, a lot gets pushed through that way.
God, I wish I could make this stuff up. There’s tons more, but I am having an off typing day. I will try to post more bits of the interview later today.