With joyless prose about joyless people, Jonat


cried reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s first novel. I’ve never admitted that before, not even to my wife. Well, it’s true, babe. There I was, on the uptown C train as it rattled through Manhattan, shedding tears into “Everything Is Illuminated” as the shtetl Trachimbrod loses its residents to the Holocaust. I had started the novel in laughter at the broken-English braggadocio of tour guide Alex Perchov; now I was bawling, a testament to the young writer’s alacrity — and also to the mood of New York City in that fall of 2002, to our desire to shift sorrow onto something other than the pile of rubble downtown. If the Strokes were the perfect post-9/11 band, then Foer was the perfect post-9/11 novelist.

Foer’s latest novel, “Here I Am,” is his third, and it was as wrenching to read as his first, only in ways the author could not have intended. At 592 pages of upper-middle class realism, it is an utterly enervating read, an inter

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