Tree of Codes (Visual Editions) by Jonathan Safran Foer is a striking example of erasure literature. It is an unremarkable-looking trade paperback that opens to reveal a latticework of die-cut pages, each page a ladder with words clinging to the rungs.
Foer’s work is an erasure of Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles, a collection of short stories originally published in Polish in 1934. Foer preserves the position of the words in the erasure text but literally cuts out the words he did not select. The story itself is told by an unidentified first-person narrator who blames his/her mother for his/her father’s descent into dementia.
Tree of Codes is described as a work of fiction, but it is more poetry than prose and more art than book. For all its beauty, though, the book itself is difficult to read: every page must be lifted to be read, and must be turned carefully so as not to snag the words on the pages below; and it is distracting to glimpse the layers of words underneath the page being read.
It’s a book I love flipping through but not one I enjoy actually reading.