by

October 31, 2012


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.  

by

October 31, 2012

Comments (3)

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Comment on Tree of Codes

It is a curiosity, a lark, an inspiration and a spark. I work in a big bookstore selling conventional books and e-readers. Froer and the publishers claim that the idea for the book was to publish something that could never be an e-book. Okay... so I have told that to dozens of people who say I could never read on an e-reader, I love paper. Guess what...not a one has bought Tree of Codes. They are amused but as already stated...too hard to read. Ironically in digital format a clever programmer could make Froer's book out of the original with the click of a mouse. Presto all the cut out words deleted and the remaining text shunted together to make it easy to read. Imagine an erotica novel shunted out of Gone with the Wind or Moby Dick. With a click you could be reading Moby Dick ... with a click it's Fifty Shades of Grey.

Frank Beltrano more than 1 years ago

Read not Skim

It is to be savored one page at a time - like we used to before MTV cut our attention span from minutes to frames. Tip-use blotting paper (found in curio shops) to protect yourself from the distraction of what's coming next. :)

Johanna Miklos more than 1 years ago

Agree on the reading problem

I'm writing this from Jacksonville, Florida. I brought the Tree of Codes with me to demonstrate to the Book Manufacturer's Institute some interesting recent developments in book "manufacturing". The book is beautiful; the concept enticing. It's also essentially unreadable.

Thad McIlroy more than 1 years ago

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