"Incredibly Loud and Incredibly Close"
by Jonathon Safran Foer
What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, and they played the sounds of our hearts through little speakers, which could be in the pouches of our overalls? When you skateboarded down the street at night you could hear everyone’s heartbeat, and then could hear yours, sort of like sonar. One weird thing is, I wonder if everyone’s hearts would start to beat at the same time, like how women who live together have their menstrual periods at the same time, which I know about, but don’t really want to know about. That would be so weird, except that the place in the hospital where babies are born would sound like a crystal chandelier in a houseboat, because the babies wouldn’t have had time to match up their heartbeats yet. And at the finish line at the end of the New York City Marathon it would sound like war.
- page 1
“Who said there had to be a reason?” “No one did, exactly.” “My question was rhetorical.” “What’s that mean?” “It means I wasn’t asking for an answer, but to make a point.” “What point?” “That there doesn’t have to be a reason.” “But if there isn’t a reason, they why does the universe exist at all?” “Because of sympathetic conditions.” “So they why am I your son?” “Because Mom and I made love, and one of my sperm fertilized one of her eggs.” “Excuse me while I regurgitate.” “Don’t act your age.” “Well, what I don’t get is why do we exist? I don’t mean how, but why.” I watched the fireflies of his thoughts orbit his head. He said, “We exist because we exist.” “What the?” “We could imagine all sorts of universes like this one, but this is the one that happened.”
- page 12-13
I felt, that night, on that stage, under that skull, incredibly close to everything in the universe, but also extremely alone. I wondered, for the first time in my life, if life was worth all the work it took to live. What exactly made it worth it? What's so horrible about being dead for ever, and not feeling anything, and not even dreaming? What's so great about feeling and dreaming?
- page 145
He had a wall of masks from every country he’d been to, like Armenia and Chile and Ethiopia. “It’s not a horrible world,” he told me, putting a Cambodian mask on his face, “but it’s filled with a lot of horrible people!”
- page 156
What if the water that came out of the shower was treated with a chemical that responded to a combination of things, like your heart-beat, and your body temperature, and your brain waves, so that your skin changed color according to your mood? If you were extremely excited your skin would turn green, and if you were angry you’d turn red, obviously, and if you felt like shiitake you’d turn brown, and if you were blue you’d turn blue.
- page 163
I felt suddenly shy. I was not used to shy. I was used to shame.
Shyness is when you turn your head away from something you want.
Shame is when you turn your head away from something you do not want.
- page 179
“I feel too much. That's what's going on.” “Do you think one can feel too much? Or just feel in the wrong ways?” “My insides don't match up with my outsides.” “Do anyone's insides and outsides match up?” “I don't know. I'm only me.” “Maybe that's what a person's personality is: the difference between the inside and outside.” “But it's worse for me.” “I wonder if everyone thinks it's worse for him.” “Probably. But it really is worse for me.”
- page 201