A Running List of Clichés in Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Here I Am”

Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest, Here I Am, has received decidedly mixed reviews, and with good reason. While there are flashes of insight here and there, the struggles of the central family are fairly trite, and considering that Foer is regarded as one of the foremost literary novelists writing today, the prose is riddled with clichés. Here is the first installment of my running list documenting the most cringeworthy lines, from pretentious pontificating about the fact that “aloneness isn’t loneliness” (duh) to awkwardly sexist characterizations of teenage girls.

PAGES 1-50:
  • “unconcerned stars” (Page 1)
  • “blood rushing from developing brains to developing genitals” (Page 2) 
  • “They started to collect, when traveling, things whose insides had an aspect of being larger than their outsides: an ocean contained in a seashell…” (Page 10)
  • “various make-out grottoes where tenderhearted and legitimately funny girls, who dressed like American Apparel advertisements and wrote Percy Jackson fan fiction, allowed klutzes to suck their perfect boobs.” (Page 15) 
    • This sounds like it was written by an erotic YA author, one who is somehow still surprised whenever women are actually funny.
  • “If I could open my fingers, my heart’s fingers could open.” (Page 20)
  • Irv: “Did I really raise a son who refers to a word as ‘that word’?” Jacob: “You didn’t raise a son.” (Page 24)
    • Because this is an exchange that a dysfunctional father and son would have in real life, not just in the son’s angry fantasies–or a soap opera.
  • “It wasn’t until she started designing homes for herself… that she came to understand what was meant by ‘herself.'” (Page 29)
  • “Alone, one can live perfectly. But not a life.” (Page 30)

Grammatical error on page 18 that just so happens to be Nerdy Spice’s pet peeve: “And despite his profound reluctance to ever step foot in a synagogue…”

SET foot. It’s “set foot.”

See you after the next fifty pages!


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