Jonathan Taylor Thomas Franzen Foer

I went to see Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close last weekend. I was looking for a film to stimulate an emotional response, something that would encourage me to do some deep introspection. I think quite a bit about serious existential questions, but I need a Hollywood motion picture to answer those questions for me so that I can go to sleep like a normal person and not have to take Xanax just to relax.

In addition, I was curious to see if Stephen Daldry could adapt Jonathan Safran Foer more effectively than Liev Schreiber did with Everything is Illuminated, a film seriously hamstrung by having the Hobbit kid from that movie in the lead role.

As the film flickered on the screen in front of me, I thought about Oskar, the young boy at the center of the narrative. I imagined my own precocious childhood and then flashed forward to my cynical, pretentious, self-interested adulthood. ‘What has come of me,’ I wondered aloud.

[PRO TIP: Never ‘wonder aloud’ during a film, especially not one at the Arclight Hollywood on Sunset and Vine, which costs $17 per ticket during evenings and weekends. People get irritable when your personal melancholy interrupts their cinematic melancholy.]

After silencing myself and dusting the popcorn thrown at me off my shirt, my mind began an intricate process of word association and affective memory. Jonathan Safran Foer reminded me of Jonathan Franzen’s great novel, The Corrections, another seminal work that came out around 9/11. The Corrections is a book about families and tragic childhood. The converse of that book’s Lambert family is the idyllic Taylor family from mid-90s sitcom Home Improvement.

Home Improvement starred Tim Allen and, of course… a young Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

This mental triptych now fully formed in my consciousness, I rushed screaming out of the theater. On my way out, I was told I’d been banned from the Arclight for life, which I felt was acceptable, as they charge too much and people talk during the movies anyway. It was more important that I uncover the hidden meaning behind this relationship between Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Franzen and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

What follows are my notes of contrast and comparison for the ‘3 Jonathans.’

Lifetime Accomplishments:

Jonathan Safran Foer

  • Best-selling author
  • Attended Princeton University
  • Professor of Graduate Creative Writing at New York University
  • Married with 2 children
  • Jewish

Jonathan Franzen

  • Best-selling author
  • Attended Swarthmore College and Freie Universitat Berlin
  • Fulbright Scholar
  • Best friends with Oprah Winfrey, the ‘most powerful black woman of all-time’
  • Winner of awards such as the ‘National Book Award,’ ‘Pulitzer Prize,’ ‘Salon Book Award,’ and many more
  • Divorced

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

  • Child actor
  • Attended Harvard and Columbia Universities
  • According to classmates “He loved to talk. He’d say really intelligent things.”
  • First actor to win the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in 1999 for his role as ‘Randy Taylor’ on Home Improvement.
  • Vegetarian by choice
  • Heartthrob
  • Dreamboat
  • Impressive physical features

Notable Works:

Jonathan Safran Foer

  • Everything Is Illuminated (2002)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005)
  • Tree of Codes (2010)
  • Eating Animals (2009)

Jonathan Franzen

  • The Twenty-Seventh City (1988)
  • Strong Motion (1992)
  • The Corrections (2001)
  • Freedom (2010)
  • How to Be Alone (essays) (2002)
  • The Discomfort Zone (memoir) (2006)

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

  • The Bradys (1990), ‘Kevin Brady’
  • Home Improvement (1991), ‘Randall William “Randy” Taylor’
  • The E! True Hollywood Story (No clue), ‘Himself’
  • The Lion King (1994), ‘Young Simba’
  • Man of the House (1995), ‘Ben Archer (Little Wing)’
  • Tom & Huck (1995), ‘Tom Sawyer’
  • Wild America (1997), ‘Marshall Stouffer’
  • I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1997), ‘Jake Wilkinson’
  • I Woke Up Early The Day I Died (1998), ‘Boy at Beach’

Famous Quotes:

Jonathan Safran Foer

“I regret that it takes a life to learn how to live.”

Jonathan Franzen

“The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.”

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

“My dad’s been in the hospital so much they gave him a preferred customer card.”


I parsed all of their CVs, considered their famous sayings and took into account the relative importance each has had in my maturation. I felt the pull of nostalgia. I pined for life before 9/11, before ‘Oprah’s Book Club,’ before Taco Bell stopped doing 39 cent burrito Tuesdays. I remembered JTT’s seminal role as ‘Boy at Beach.’ I yearned for simpler times, much like Jonathan Franzen and Jonathan Safran Foer do in their most famous novels.

It is our yearning for lost youth and fear of mortality that unites us as a species. That youth, innocence and unreachable immortality is represented in ‘Randall William “Randy” Taylor’ of ‘Home Improvement.’ He will live on forever in rerurns, a constant, boyish, dreamy, adorable, precious, way hot reminder of who we were at that time. ‘Randall William “Randy” Taylor’ will live long after you and I and our loved ones have ceased to exist.

Treasure your Home Improvement DVDs. Treasure your families. Treasure the brief moment you have on this planet. Treasure that vintage copy of Tiger Beat with JTT on the cover. All of these things will only appreciate in value. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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