If that sounds irritating, I urge you to stick with it. Alex grows into one of the most lovable fictional characters I've come across in a long time. And the brilliance of Foer's achievement and evidence of the kind of generosity that is the real test of a novelist is that over the course of the novel Alex moves from buffoon to wise man. He even becomes a better writer than the character named after the novelist, one with a better sense of form and craft and a more interesting prose style. At some point, I guarantee you, between the laughter and the tears Alex provides, you will realize that you are in the presence of a real novelist who is likely to be with us for a long time.
Jonathan Safran Foer reads from Everything Is Illuminated at Shaman Drum Bookshop on Tuesday, April 29.
[Originally published in April, 2003.]