Tree of Codes

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tree of Codes
by Jonathan Safran Foer
This is the strangest concept for a book that I’ve ever read. I’ve always enjoyed Jonathan Safran Foer’s work, so when this one came out I was immediately intrigued. I bought a copy in 2011 and it’s been on my shelf ever since. It’s not one of those books you can easily pick up and read.

The entire book is created out of the text of another book, Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles. Foer chose his favorite book and then painstakingly chose a few words from each page to craft a new work. Every single page is die-cut, which makes it difficult to read. I finally found that the easiest way for me to read it was to place a dark sheet of paper after each page that I read. It was time-consuming, but that slowed me down enough to reflect on the words.

It’s absolutely a gimmick that could be a crutch, but somehow the novel is beautiful and haunting in its own right. Here’s one section…
"In the depths of the grayness, weeks passed like boats waiting to sail into the starless dawn, we were full of aimless endless darkness."

The plot revolves around a boy watching his father’s decent into madness or depression. The lyrical lines convey the anguish, but the plot is secondary.

My only regret is that I didn’t read The Street of Crocodiles first. That’s the main reason I waited so long to read Foer’s book, but I just haven’t found a copy yet. I need to just order one online, because I’d love to compare the works.

BOTTOM LINE: A fascinating work of art. The plot matters very little, but Foer’s skill as a writer comes through even when he is whittling away instead of building from scratch. It was an experience to read it. Not one I’d repeat, but definitely worth doing once.

Top photo from here, bottom photo by me.


Ti said...

Holy heck. What the? I'd go mad reading that. I tried to read House of Leaves, also a concept book and it drove me batty. It would be neat to own though.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Ti - It is such a wild idea for a book. More art than literature in a lot of ways.

Bybee said...

I'm so glad that your Avid self is there to read what I want to read but shy away from.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Susan - This one is DEFINITELY not for everyone.