Jonathan Safran Foer, 'Tree of Codes'

Wednesday 8 May 2013

In an effort to drag myself out of my current stagnancy in my degree (I suspect it has something to do with having a fair few thousand words to write and nothing of any intelligence to say), I want to remind myself what's so great about literature and everything to do with it. So, this is Tree of Codes, written by Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; one of my favourite books and now (if my proposal is accepted) a third of my primary texts for my dissertation. I am beyond excited to read Tree of Codes, which is a feeling I haven't felt for a while towards a book. Perhaps it is the idea of writing my dissertation on a topic which I know and love, entirely my own choice, in a manner that is extended enough to - hopefully - do it justice. I'm focusing on 'visual writing' and materiality, the particular speciality of the publishing firm, Visual Editions, that produced Tree of Codes

Described as 'revolutionary' by the New York Times and a 'true work of art' by Erica Wagner at The Times, I can't believe it's taken me two and a bit years to get round to reading this. Olafur Eliasson (the artist behind the artwork subject of my next post) rightly recognised the novel's materiality, describing it as a book that 'remembers that it actually has a body' and I can't think of how to explain it in a better way. Tree of Codes is a story built from Bruno Schulz's 1934 collection of short stories The Street of Crocodiles. Cutting into the texts, removing pieces from it, making something new, Foer places the materiality of the text at the centre of the work, using a different die-cut on every single page thanks to the Beligium-based studio Die Keure (who were the only production studio that didn't turn down Visual Editions' request). The book is one of a kind, and its execution alone is enough to put it onto my favourites list. Two videos worth watching:

I am primarily working with Mark Z Danielewski's House of Leaves, Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts. However I'm also probably going to be working with two other books published by Visual Editions - The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman by Lawrence Sterne, and Mark Saporta's Composition No 1. I am finally excited to begin my work!

Images: Visual Editions

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