MONDAY

Never play cards with a man named Doc, never eat at a place called Mom’s, and never get into a bullshitting contest with a writer whose middle name is Safran. There might be a few people in the world capable of outpacing Jonathan Safran Foer’s brain, but not many. Foer has a freakish capacity for invention. And though that quality might make him a frustrating profile subject (witness Deborah Solomon’s recent gag-inducing portrait of Foer in the New York Times Magazine), it’s a great trait for a novelist. In his new book, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Foer focuses his pyrotechnic imagination on New York City in the aftermath of 9/11. Here we meet Oskar Schell, a precocious 9-year-old kid who’s lost his dad in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Oskar, a preternatural Francophile who wears all white and curses in code (“Succotash my Balzac, dipshiitake”), finds a mysterious key in his father’s closet. He then sets out on two seemingly impossible missions: finding one particular lock in a city with millions of them and coming to grips with his father’s grisly death. Along the way, Foer throws in some historical backstory, some literary homage (paging Mr. Vonnegut), a bunch of pomo trickery, lots of shiitake jokes, and list after inspired list. Amid all the wittiness, the anguish of that day in September permeates every page. The result is a book that is both extremely clever and incredibly sad. In other words, some damn good shiitake. Foer reads at 7 p.m. Monday, April 11, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Felix Gillette)