Today, I wanted to talk about the soon to be published book by Jonathan Safran Foer, as covered in this piece from Vanity Fair. Tree of Codes is a fascinating work that Foer constructed by, well, deconstructing his favorite novel, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. What results is a visually beautiful work—die-cut paper that produces a Swiss cheese of sorts—that unites literature with conceptual art in a way that I find both weird and innovative. Foer points out that Tree of Codes is his own alternative to e-books, which is something I really took to. At a time when the physical book as we’ve known it seems to be drastically changing, I appreciate that Foer is, in a way, attempting to put forth his own reinterpretation of the book itself.
This is something I wish I would see more on bookshelves. While it’s doubtful that this art form is something that will ever take off, I can’t help appreciating what Foer is trying to do here. I think pushing the boundaries of a book’s physicality in a way such as this offers the reader a new and complex way of thinking about the printed word, or perhaps lack thereof. At the same time, though, is this just a gimmick? Is there enough practicality in its uniqueness to make it reproducible? Would people even care to see it again elsewhere? Maybe it’s just art for art’s sake; a piece of conceptual art meant to be seen, rather than a new way to think about creating literature. I love the creativity, and I love the high-concept production quality, but this might just be a one-hit wonder. What do you think?