Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When literature and art combine

by Stephanie

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?


  1. I read about this yesterday, although I have not seen a copy of the book in person. Yes, it's gimmicky to me. It's a cool idea as an art project but I think everyone knows (including Foer) that it will never take off or prevent e-books from taking over the market. He even realizes that fewer people will buy it, especially given the higher price point. It's probably not reproducable; anyone attempting to do something similar will just look like they're copying.

    It is definitely cool art, though. As for whether it's good literature...well, like I said, I haven't seen it, so I haven't read it, but I wonder if the story stands up on its own. Is it a good story or will it only hold people's interest because of its form?

  2. It reminded me an awful lot of Tom Phillips's A Humument.

  3. i agree don.

    the humument is now out as a fab ipad app by the way

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