To the list of labels Jonathan Safran Foer has acquired over the years–wunderkind author, outspoken vegetarian, one of those Brooklyn “Jonathans”– we can now add “literary sculptor.” This month he’s turned the paperback novel into an interactive sculpture which needs no battery power or wifi. Foer’s new book will *never* be able to fit on a Kindle or Nook and that’s kind of the point.
Published last week by Visual Editions, based in Britain, the book takes a pre-existing text — Bruno Shulz’s Street of Crocodiles, a 1934 short story collection translated from Polish — and transforms it into a surprising reading experience.
It’s like a shuffled deck of Swiss cheese slices: every single page has holes in different places. But the holes are blocky and rectangular. Trying to read an individual leaf won’t do you any good, a page needs to be resting on the stack so the words peeking through from beneath complete the narrative. Foer’s title for the new book is Tree of Codes (get it?).
The physical concept for Tree of Codes was so outlandish (and daunting) every printing company the publisher approached said that the book was “unmakeable.” But the Belgian printers Die Keure accepted the challenge, and went about crafting a unique die-cut for every page of the book.
They even made a video showing how the elaborate printing process jammed their machinery.
With the design world abuzz about the book (thank you swiss-miss! ) it’s easy to let the ingenuity (um, gimmick?) make us forget it’s literature. We’re hoping to get our hands on a copy soon to see if the story’s any good.
- Michele Siegel
Jonathan Safran Foer has always had a thing for kooky sculpture. Back in 2006 he told Kurt Andersen about his love of the artist Joseph Cornell’s boxes.