Books: Laughter in the Dark

Jonathan Safran Foer's dazzling debut novel sheds a comic light on history's shadowy secrets

At some point in the past year, people asked themselves the question, When is it O.K. to stop crying and start laughing again? Jonathan Safran Foer's first novel, Everything Is Illuminated (Houghton Mifflin; 276 pages), is a very funny book about very tragic times, and it's just a little bit nervous about being so funny. After one comic aside, the narrator--a Ukrainian would-be hipster (and remedial English student) named Alexander Perchov--feels as if he has to reassure his audience: "It was not wrong to make a funny here. It was the right thing to do." And it was.

Everything Is Illuminated...

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