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Donostia Book Club

My name is Slawka Grabowska. I organize Donostia Book Club. We meet every month to discuss previously chosen books or short stories. Check out our FB page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donostia-Book-Club/105225566276875?ref=hl

Jonathan Safran Foer and Our June Meeting





In June we were talking about Jonathan Safran Foer and his short story "A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease". Since the story is really short and available for everyone online (http://www.pas.rochester.edu/~tobin/lj/2008/09/Foer.pdf), I will not focus here on the analysis – I would much rather prefer you sharing your thoughts on the subject with me.


Instead I will give you some background, the general info about Jonathan. And also I have a question for you: Do we need to know author's background to analyse his literary work? Please comment below or send me an email!


Jonathan Safran Foer is 37 years old and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Till June everyone thought that he shares house with his wife, also a writer Nicole Krauss (best know for “The History of Love”) and their 2 children, but Daily Mail just reported that the couple's representative announced their split up, after 10 years of marriage and that in fact they already didn't live together during last year.


He was born on Feb. 21, 1977 in Washington, D.C, to his lawyer father, Albert Foer, and his businesswoman mother, Polish-born Esther Safran Foer. Jonathan is a middle-child, younger brother of Franklin Foer, the former editor of the politics and culture magazine The New Republic, and older brother of Joshua, a freelance journalist.


He attemded Princeton University and studied Philosphy. As an undergraduate at Princeton University in the mid-1990s, Foer won the Creative Writing Thesis Prize. Joyce Carol Oates, noted author and Creative Writing professor at Princeton, encouraged Foer to pursue a professional writing career. She was a great influence on his final thesis project, which later became his first published novel, "Everything is Illuminated", about his maternal grandfather; Louis Safran who was a Holocaust survivor. Ironically, Foer had never met his grandfather. As he said: "She was the first person to ever make me think I should try to write in any sort of serious way. And my life really changed after that."


After graduation, he tried medicine studies, but quickly realised it was not for him and focused instead on his literary career. In 2001, he went to Ukraine to do further research and turned his thesis into a full novel. In 2002, “Everything Is Illuminated” was published by Houghton Miffin. He received for it the Jewish Book Award and the Guardian First Book Award. In 2005, Liev Schreiber wrote and direct a film-version of the book., starring Elijah Wood in the title role.

Also in 2005, Foer published his second novel “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”. It received very mixed reviews – from praise to complete condemnation. However, the novel sold well and in 2011, it was adapted for the screen, starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. It was nominated for 2 Academy Awards (Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor) in 2013.

In 2008, Foer was hired as a professor of Creative Writing at Yale University. Next year, he suddenly published his first work of nonfiction “Eating Animals”. The book was, and still is, widely discussed. An actress, Natalie Portman, said that it was “Eating Animals” that changed her from a vegetarian to a vegan activist. Because of this book Foer was accused of being unmanly, inconsiderate, juvenile. But also many praised him. He himself says it was inspired by the birth of his first child, that he was rushed by the fact he “would have to make decisions on his behalf”.


His other noticeable work included a libretto written for an opera “Seven Attempted Escapes from Silence” and an artwork in the shape of a book “Tree of Codes” (2010) created with the words from his favourite book, “Street of Crocodiles” by Bruno Schulz. At present he is working on his new novel book “Escape from Children’s Hospital” due to release in 2014.

In June 2010, both Jonathan Safran Foer and his wife, Nicole Krauss, were included in The New Yorker magazine's once-a-decade “20 Under 40” list of most promising writers. Foer currently teachers Creative Writing at New York University. 



All the info comes from: