Adult, Bibliomancy For Beginners, Books

Bibliomancy for Beginners: Ep. 5. Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer


I know, I know, but this is what happens when I don’t make a post for two weeks … you get a bunch of posts as a form of catch up.  I’m sorry -.- .

Alright let’s get into this:

Bibliomancy for Beginners is the collaboration of Gretchen, of My Life is a Notebook fame, myself, and two of our friends from college.  We get together every Tuesday at 8:30 EST and talk about a book we all read.  This week it was Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes, and my second pick.

Title: Tree of Codes
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Publisher: Visual Editions
Genre: Post Modernist Text, Literary Fiction
Page #: 139 (though its really much less than that; continue reading to find out why)

Now the thing that drew me to this novel was the thing the perhaps makes it most unique.  This book was created from the bones of another novel.  Now, many of you I am sure have seen photos on tumblr or in some art instillation or poem where an artist takes a page out of a book and blacks out some words and leaves others open to create a new sentence, or poem, or whatever.  This is what Foer did, but with a whole novel.  He took Bruno Shulz’s Street of Crocodiles and literally cut it up to create a new story.

Now, I have not read Street of Crocodiles but I have it in good authority (or from several goodreads reviews) that the plots to both novels are EXTREMELY similar.  While I am not surprised by this, there is only so much you can do with the words you are given, I have to wonder if what Foer did was write a new novel, or merely condense the old one into a sort of ballad.

Each of us on Bibliomancy for Beginners noted on the lyrical qualities of the writing of this novel.  It is work of beauty to say the least, a piece of art if you will.  We also all noted the difficulty we has in picking out what was actually happening in the story based on the way it was presented.  Since each page is filled with holes, die-cut in a way so that only the words he wished to remain were physically there, it creates a difficult reading environment.  The part of my brain which normally contemplates the metaphorical or symbolical representation of what I’m reading (or even the basic plot the first time through) was distracted making sure I was reading all of the words that I needed to and not picking up words from pages later in the book.

I wanted to open a blank word document and type each of the sentences in myself so that I could read it in one chunk.  I felt like I would have better comprehended what I read if I could read it normally, and would have better been able to contemplate what the novel was trying to say between the lines.  I did read it twice and was able to grasp things more clearly and perhaps if I ever get around to reading Street of Crocodiles I should revist this novel and see what it brings to the old text and to myself.

This is definitely an interesting book to have on your shelf.  It is a talking piece at all those literary gatherings I know you all attend.  You can sip your hoity toity tea and break out your english professor voice to talk about the groundbreaking and intersting techniques employed by Foer in this novel.  It is extremely expensive, obviously due to the processes necessary to create it and it can be hard to get a hold of (one of our hosts was put on back order twice and had the book read aloud to her so that she could participate in the discussion).

While it was beautiful and masterful and interesting, it wasn’t my favorite read of the week.  I did read one of Foer’s other novels Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close as well this week.  It is strange to say but I feel like even when using Shulz’s words I could still see Foer’s voice in Tree of Codes so if you have read something else by him or wish to read something else by him, I would highly recommend it.  It would definitely be worth it.

If you want to see me and my friends talk about this book and mostly grumble about how it was so difficult to understand then watch the video below.  It is entertaining if not very informative.

I might have made it to South Carolina by the time this post goes up, we shall see.  I hope you had a great weekend and enjoy the week to come.  Be sure to check out the newest episode of Bibliomancy for Beginners to air this coming Tuesday at 8:30 EST.  I might treat our audience to an ocean view. 😀  I have to go now, I need to be up early as I leave on this adventure but I wanted these posts to go up regardless.  See you guys soon, the Pied Piper is calling me.



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