Guide Here I Am

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His earlier books had in common quick pacing, various but always antic modes of narration, magical-realist flourishes, and melodramatic plots, designed to stimulate maximum sympathy for the victims and survivors of real-life atrocities. But reviews aside, Foer gained a wide audience. Both of his novels were made into award-winning films, and no doubt readers and viewers alike laughed and cried.

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Its arguments on the grounds of animal welfare, corruption of the food supply, labor abuses, pollution, and environmental degradation are well-documented and persuasive. The book has quest elements as well: Foer goes undercover with activists who break into massive holding pens by night, and walks among dead and deformed fowl, wading through their own shit; he sees fecal mists wafting from septic seas, common to any pork farm on the prairie; and he visits some of the few remaining humane plots, where turkeys live lives as pleasant as that of his family dog.

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That book is marred by its framing as a conversion story: Foer stopped fearing and started loving dogs at age 26, and undertook writing Eating Animals after becoming a pet owner and a parent. But surely only a political movement that gains sway within the national Democratic Party could effectively tame the likes of Tyson. Still, if not The Silent Spring of unsanitary, industrial chicken slaughter, Eating Animals is an honorable piece of work about what it means to be a consumer in a corporate world.

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Foer is the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and his first two novels are about sons concerned with honoring the memories of the dead, even if it means casting them as heroes in a sex farce. The transition is an awkward one. Jacob and Julia are getting divorced.

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Here I Am suggests not. Jacob and Julia are an affluent couple living in Washington, D.

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Julia is an architect frustrated with her practice because she mostly does home renovations. Jacob is a writer and something of a sellout: His novel won the National Jewish Book Award in , but now he writes for television. But as extensive exposition of their backstory shows, the split has been a long time coming.

But as the novel proceeds, it becomes clear that Jacob is the central character, and his is the dominant point of view.

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Between any two beings there is a unique, uncrossable distance, an unenterable sanctuary. Sometimes it takes the shape of aloneness. Sometimes it takes the shape of love. Here I Am appears more straightforward, even conventional, despite its forays into conjured cataclysm or cyber-worlds. And yet its structure is more reflective of its themes and concerns than is at first apparent.

It is as though bad faith — that which sees us doggedly adhering to ritual even as it empties of meaning — is contaminating, insidiously harmful, limitless.

For all this, Here I Am is endearingly funny, its one-liners and comic hyperboles undercutting its inherent melancholy. And it is also a novel about the inevitable and incomprehensible tragedy of the baton passing between generations. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics Jonathan Safran Foer Book of the day. Fiction reviews. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations.

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