The thing I’m enjoying most about Jonathan Safran Foer’s ”Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is the 9-year-old protagonist’s mission of talking with every person named Brown in New York City -- and its affirmation that an interesting life exists behind each anonymous face and closed door.
It reminds me of Steve Hartman's “Everybody has a Story” segments on CBS News. Hartman throws a dart at a US map to choose a city, then randomly opens a phone book there and chooses a person to interview. He invariably discovers a fascinating story.
It reminds me of The Oxford Project, wherein Peter Feldstein photographed every resident in the tiny town of Oxford, Iowa. Twenty-one years later, in 2005, he photographed the same residents again, this time accompanied by writer Stephen Bloom, who interviewed them. And hidden behind one ordinary face in this flyover-country town is Jim Hoyt: “… the last living of the first four American soldiers who liberated Buchenwald concentration camp.”
Novelist Orson Scott Card wrote, “If you look at somebody and think he or she is normal, that often means you don't know them well enough yet.” Gustave Flaubert wrote, “Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.”
It just takes some excavating around the details.