Everything was not illuminated

A thousand sadnesses. I just went to see Everything is Illuminated tonight with my peeps Joy, Kyle, and Marcia.

Everything is Illuminated book coverSeveral weeks ago I saw a trailer for this movie and was captivated, as much by the imagery as the song towards the end, Devotchka’s How it Ends. But there was something about the title, the phrase Everything is Illuminated which had been lost on me, obscured by the whimsical script on the book cover. Those words, “Everything is Illuminated” seem to have this grandness, like the sound of the air rushing into the tomb of Tutankhamen when it was reopened. Like the beginning and end wrapped into one. Like the ultimate coda. Or maybe I just really like the memory of having heard someone say those words.

Part of my concern in all this is how do you gauge a book well enough to determine whether it’s worth investing the time and mental space to read? The cover and jacket text can’t be trusted, they’re painstakingly crafted by market research panels to create a deep psychological desire to buy the book, and then maybe read it. I can’t read long book reviews by people who review books professionally. What do they know about me or what I’m looking for in a book, especially considering that they read and write about books for a living. Which I find highly suspect. Writing about writing that is.

Lately I’ve determined that trailers (for movies based on books) are especially persuasive and informative about the content of a book. Yes they are painstakingly crafted to get me into the movie theater to buy popcorn, with no ethical responsibility to hold true to plot of the film. But if I redirect that desire and go read the book, well then, I’ve shown them haven’t I? Not exactly sure if my thoughts on this have changed any since seeing the new trailer for the Shining.

Everything is Illuminated movie posterAnd so it was that I watched the trailer for Everything is Illuminated back in August and was captivated. I picked up the book and read it and loved it. And tonight I watched the movie, and it was incredible to see Eugene Hutz (lead singer for Gogol Bordello) play the role of the Alex, in fact that reason alone is enough to see the movie. But that’s really all there is. There’s a nice field of sunflowers, an image used frequently in the marketing for the film, but conspicuously absent in the actual book.

It’s such a cliche to hear someone say “They changed the ending” but it’s true. Based on what I understand of the ending—Everything is Illuminated is not a book that you get after one reading, I admit—they changed the RELIGION of a primary character. WTF? Are you even allowed to do that in a book about the Holocaust? It’s funny because I treat the book as a sort of truth and the movie seems almost like a lie. Or like something seriously got lost in translation.

So think about adding the movie to the end of your Netflix queue so you can see Eugene Hutz as Alex Perchov. And then think about reading the book—the first 6 pages are online at Amazon. And we all should make a note to check out Gogol Bordello’s latest album Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike.



look at you, writing about writing about writing. dude.

They changed the ending and his religion. I’m not seeing the film.
Damn you Liev Schreiber.

It’s best to never consider the book and the movie in the same thought. Ever. It’ll just make you sad.

Sometimes it works – take Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. They have nothing in common whatsoever, and each stands alone nicely, because books don’t make good movies.

Most of the time it doesn’t work. Take Harry Potter and Harry Potter. The structure of a book just flops as a movie. (I mean, I like the Harry Potter movies in spite of themselves, but they only work in context with the books; as movies, they’re horrible.)

And: writing about writing about writing. Heh.

Well technically I’m writing about watching a movie based on a book that I read that’s about writing. So it’s all pretty messed up.

I’m curious about Fight Club (the book). I love the movie, and a lot of people love Chuck Palahniuk, but I’m hesitant having heard that “he writes the sort of books that people who don’t read books like to read.”

I like to read. I’m just very very very picky.


the first two pages i read are so very mcsweeney’s, but i have to admit i like that. so i’ll need to read this book. but, you know? I find the only books i’ve been finishing lately are the ones by middle aged men. and safran foer is not middle-aged yet. However, i have endeavoured to read all of don delillo’s books because he is perfect.

I just ignored the parts of the movie that were illogical and annoying. Then, I made up my own facts and pretended there had been scenes to support them. This all made the movie much more enjoyable for me than it was for you.

Fight Club the movie is superior to Fight Club the book. Although, Marla is more developed and important in the book. Chuck Palahniuk is a gimmicky one-trick pony writer.

I should mention there’s a lot of freaky sex in the book that, well, was not in the movie.


I’m sad to hear the movie is so disappointing when the book was so good. Especially in connection to the history and the culture of where it all took place. If you like Everything is Illuminated, you should try his newest book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, as well as his wife’s book The History of Love. In fact I highly recommend they be read together.

Whoa. How could they change his religion? That alone puzzles me so that I’ll probably see the movie, but I’m disappointed that this is how most people will experience the story.

Jean, I’ve been looking at it, in particular the pictures on the last several pages, but I’m already on to my next movie trailer inspired book: In Cold Blood. Hopefully Capote fairs better.

Kate, I don’t exactly not recommend the movie, parts of it I quite liked but having just read the book, it felt false at the end.

Oh, that makes me sad. Also, why the hell is it opening here in NC not until the 21st??? Fucking yokels.

And freaky sex? Must read that book…. (half joking, I think)

Hey wait Robin, I thought you read the book? I remember you commenting about hoping they don’t mess it up.


I was under the impression that Chuck Palahniuk writes not so much simple books, but simple sentence structure. I think his own views of his work do not hold up to how the general public views him. Palahniuk is not Vonnegut but then again it isn’t like he’s Dean Kootz either.

i wouldn’t say that chuck writes books that people who don’t like to read like to read. he does use a lot of shock value, which probably keeps more people interested who would set down a more conventional novel after the first chapter.

i wouldn’t call him a one trick pony either. what would that trick be exactly? i would say all his books are about f’d up stuff, but they aren’t based on any of the same “gimmicks.” he does have several “themes” that run across many of his books, however.

i was kinda disappointed by the film too, the package is so different from the story.


I was just wondering if anyone has read anything else like jonathan safran foer’s books, its disappointing that he has only written two…I want to find something that is just as good because i’ve already read both of his. Any suggestions?

Care to Comment?

Or if you'd prefer to get in touch privately, please send me an email.


Email (optional)

Blog (optional)