Eric Recommends: ‘Extremely Loud,’ ‘Confederacy of Dunces,’ ‘Manhunt’

Here are a few more from my catch-up started in the last post. You are invited to click the links if you want to buy any of these titles; the links take you to, where I get a tiny kickback if you buy anything there (even if it’s not the item you originally clicked on).

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer I hate Jonathan Safran Foer for being a successful novelist who is younger and a handsomer than me, but I sure enjoyed this, his second book, about a pleasantly strange 9-year-old boy in search of clues regarding his father’s death on 9/11. I haven’t read Foer’s first work, “Everything Is Illuminated” (though I did enjoy the movie based on it), but it was much better-reviewed than “Extremely Loud.” Maybe it’s so brilliant that “Extremely Loud” seems weak by comparison, but I found the latter novel to be a witty, poignant story about loss and sadness.

“A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole. Onto the short list of books I love the most jumps this hysterical masterpiece about a pretentious, over-educated, under-employed, lazy, hypocritical, pontificating, obese New Orleans man named Ignatius J. Reilly. He lives with his mother, avoids work at all costs, goes to movies just to be offended by the sleazy they contain, and is forever complaining about fictitious physical ailments. Toole paints a variety of memorable Louisiana characters whose paths cross Ignatius’, but none are as delightfully loathsome as the great fathead himself. I would love to see a movie version, but I can’t imagine an actor both good enough and fat enough to do him justice.

“Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer,” by James L. Swanson. This non-fiction account of Lincoln’s assassination and the subsequent pursuit of John Wilkes Booth is so well-researched and so craftily told that you’d think you were reading a novel. And yet it’s al true, with no speculative fiction involved: If it’s in quotation marks, someone actually said it. (Swanson used contemporary interviews, court transcripts, and so forth.) And if it’s in the book, it really happened (or at least it is the most reasonable and commonly accepted theory of what happened). Swanson doesn’t burden the book with footnotes or source-citing, though endnotes and a bibliography do assist those looking for documentation or further reading material. He focuses instead on telling an extraordinary story in a clear, accessible, exciting manner. I never would have thought a history book would be a page-turner, but this one is.