Show, Don't Tell
By saying Foer's writing style is visual, we don't mean that Jonathan Safran Foer uses incredibly vivid imagery (although he does). We're talking about how he uses actual photographs in the text to illustrate Oskar's adventure, making this our favorite illustrated book since Bunnicula. Most of the images we see come from Oskar's binder, which he calls Stuff That Happened to Me, even though most of the things didn't happen to him at all. There are pictures of keys, paper airplanes, and Hamlet, which all relate to Oskar's life, but what about cavemen, a French astronaut, and a tennis player?
We also get to see a few photos of the Blacks Oskar encounters, like the back of Abby Black's head and the back of her husband's head too. Why don't we get to see their faces? They don't want to be tagged on Facebook?
And occasionally we're treated to a photo of a doorknob. These likely belonged to Oskar's grandfather, who took photos of all the doorknobs in the apartment before moving out. Doorknobs and keys…hmm, might have to think about that one.
Foer employs other visual techniques with his text, too. You can always tell a chapter that Grandma is writing from her typewriter because she puts two spaces after each period, infuriating the Punctuation Patrol. And Chapter 10 (Why I'm Not Where You Are – 4/12/78) has tons of words and phrases which are circled in red pen. This is the only letter that Dad received from his own father, a father he never knew, and he marked it up as though he were the meanest English teacher in school. Why did he do that? Does correcting Grandpa's spelling and grammar somehow correct all the mistakes in their relationship? Or is it simply Dad's way of bringing order to the chaos left in his life when his father abandoned them? Not seeing the forest for the trees?
Many critics found this use of imagery, weird punctuation, and blank pages gimmicky and annoying. What do you think? Did it enhance your experience of the book? Was it distracting?