Foer is only thirty-ish, but didn't start writing until his twenties. He watched a lot of TV, and didn't open a book for the first 18 years of his life. He was bored by most reading lists. He became a novelist by asking the question, "What is the book I would want to read?" and then writing that book.
There are things I love about Everything Is Illuminated (the Alex parts), and things I hate about Everything is Illuminated (the pseudo-historic parts). But I'm delighted to find a writer with such creative confidence. He says:
Everyone in the book has to be me. If they're not me, who are they?
Nobody's right except for you. Writing is figuring it out for yourself.
Writing is about expressing something I feel no one else has experienced. And yet when I write it, someone else can say, "Me, too!"You too are an original. Whether or not you've been discovered or published. Make a list of ten things you believe hardly anyone has experienced. These are the things you should write about - they'll make you fresh and intriguing.