This is really a two hour presentation I give to high school students, cut down to three minutes. And it all started one day on a plane, on my way to TED, seven years ago. And in the seat next to me was a high school student, a teenager, and she came from a really poor family. And she wanted to make something of her life, and she asked me a simple little question. She said, “What leads to success?” And I felt really badly, because I couldn’t give her a good answer. So I get off the plane, and I come to TED. And I think, jeez, I’m in the middle of a room of successful people! So why don’t I ask them what helped them succeed, and pass it on to kids?
“A Very Rigid Search,” proves to be a strong example of “unorthodox” Jewish writing. Although, there are parts where Jewishness is talked about, it doesn’t serve to be the central focus. For example, Alex and his grandfather (who are not Jewish) continue to call their passenger a Jew, Yiddish words are spoken but only for Alex’s interest, and the two are helping “this Jew” trace his Jewish roots; however, besides these small anecdotes, the story seems to be more about Alex’s journey and his relationship to his grandfather. The hero, or Jonathan Safran Foer, serves as a vehicle for Alex to increase his relationship with his grandfather.
In the beginning of the story, it is clear that Alex and his grandfather are not close and rarely speak. For example, Alex says,” Amid my grandfather and I was a silence you could cut with a scimitar…” and “My grandfather and I did not say words pending the drive, which is not abnormal, because we have never said multitudinous words.” However, through shared comic relief and frustrations with Foer, the two start to bond. This is apparent in their shared laughter of the dropped potato, conversations about Odessa, and when his grandfather finally opens up about his parents: “It was the first occasion that I had ever heard my grandfather speak of his parents, and I wanted to know very much more of them,” Alex mentions. At the end of the story, it’s not Foer who feels a sense of relief, but Alex.