Here's a little warning to journalists out there who might be thinking about profiling literary uberkinder Jonathan Safran Foer for the release of his new novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: clear your schedule first. Based on the intimate portrait by Deborah Solomon (who's much nicer as a profiler than an interviewer) in this weekend's New York Times Magazine, Foer requires a lot of time and TLC, mostly via email:
During the weeks I was working on this article, he answered the questions that were put to him and reported on his whereabouts on a nearly daily basis; indeed, sometimes on an hourly basis. A kind of epistolary climax was reached one Sunday earlier this month, when I received a total of 19 e-mail messages from him, all of them uncommonly thoughtful and well written.
At times, he would e-mail to express his regret that he could not e-mail. "I have lots of time to think here," he wrote one morning from San Francisco, "but not too much to write."
Never has not having much to write been so compelling.
Solomon clearly enjoyed her time spent with Foer, since her profile feels uncomfortably like a (teen-age) romance with subject and author falling deeper in love with each feverish email and fleeting encounter. Sadly, if these two IM'd, the transcripts were left out of the story. As Solomon writes of one rendezvous:
"I think it would be nice to meet again," he wrote one day. "It will give me a chance to give you a fuller picture—even if the fuller picture is not a better picture. . . . It pains me to think that I have not yet given you enough about me, as a person. Two meetings. What if, by chance—by mood, by weather, by biochemistry—I grossly misrepresented myself?"
Fair enough. Plans were made to meet outside the main branch of the New York Public Library one Wednesday at noon. That morning, more e-mail messages arrived, the last of which was sent knowingly to an empty desk: "Writing this from the Kinko's across the street from the Public Library," Foer noted. "It's 11:41 and I've done it again: arrived for a rendezvous more than 15 minutes early. Anyway, I'm assuming you won't read this until after we meet, which leaves these words hanging in some nowhere time. . . . See you soon, hours ago."
The old letter waiting for you after the encounter trick: emo boys the world over know it well.
And speaking of Michelle Malkin's favorite musical genre, Solomon's piece made us want to cut ourselves. A lot. But maybe, as Foer's agent Nicole Aragi anticipates, we're just player hating: "Jonathan has had to live with so much jealousy, it's had me ripping my hair out."