Jonathan Safran Foer’s Experimental Literature

| 11/15/2010 4:25:08 PM

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It’s hard to pin down novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. Just when you thought you had his meticulous prose and dietary politics figured out, he goes and drops a piece of interdisciplinary fiction on us all. Starting with his favorite book—Polish World War II-era author Bruno Schulz’s collection of short fiction called The Street of Crocodiles—Foer began slicing out sections of text. When all of the scraps of paper were cleared away, Foer had an entirely different story called Tree of Codes.

With the surgery complete Foer’s next hurdle was to find a printer for such an unconventional book. According to Visual Editions, the book’s publisher, Tree of Codes “literally got turned down by every printer we approached–their stock line being ‘the book you want to make just cannot be made.’” Belgian print shop Die Keure didn’t agree, and used a die-cutting method to make the literary sculpture.

Many critics will undoubtedly profess that Foer’s experiment was an overwhelming success, but as Foer told Vanity Fair, there’s more at stake with Tree of Codes’ unusual format than the author’s boredom with the publishing status quo:

I’m not interested in experimentation for its own sake. But I’m interested in works of art that transport a reader. That send you to a different place—pure magic. We’ve gotten used to the notion that art, if it entertains or says something interesting about our time, that’s enough. But there’s something else it can do that nothing else can do. To be genuinely transported, to have your nerves touched, make your hair stand on end, that’s what I think art can do well—or only art can do. 


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