There’s something about Jonathan Safran Foer that drives a certain breed of dyspeptic New York writer/blogger to drink—more so than usual, anyway. They chafe at the six-figure advances, the visiting professor gigs at Yale and NYU, the majestic Park Slope brownstone. There’s even a catchphrase for it—Schadenfoer! However, those hoping for a colossal career misstep might want to pour another highball, because his latest book, Tree of Codes, is a quietly stunning work of art. The first major title by new London-based publisher Visual Editions, Tree of Codes was created by slicing out chunks of text from Foer’s favorite novel, The Street of Crocodiles by Polish author Bruno Schulz. The result is a spare, haunting story that appears to hang in negative space on the page. Pretentious? Possibly. But it is also very, very cool. VF Daily spoke with Safran Foer about his delightfully tactile new book.
Heather Wagner: Tell me about Tree of Codes: how did the idea of cutting out words from an existing novel come to you?
Jonathan Safran Foer: A couple of things: One is the book The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. It’s a book I’ve always loved. Some things you love passively, some you love actively. In this case, I felt the compulsion to do something with it. Then I started thinking about what books look like, what they will look like, how the form of the book is changing very quickly. If we don’t give it a lot of thought, it won’t be for the better. There is an alternative to e-books. And I just love the physicality of books. I love breaking the spine, smelling the pages, taking it into the bath. . .
What inspired the design?
I thought: What if you pushed it to the extreme, and created something not old-fashioned or nostalgic but just beautiful? It helps you remember that life can surprise you.
via Vanity Fair.