A Tree Grew in Britain

11 Feb

In the funhouse mirror-world of surprises the fact that a particular book, in this case Jonathan Safran Foer’s new opus Tree of Codes (Visual Editions) did not receive much attention despite any number of potent/compelling reasons barely registers. Despite this I am left wondering especially as young Jonathan (a member of the New Yorker’s anointed “20 under 40” (FSG) has in the past garnered disproportionate media attention for the most jejune reasons

Apparently, the responsibility of noting this extraordinary book and its ambitious novice publisher Visual Editions has been left to me. The simple description of Tree of Codesis that Foer used an existing piece of text ,his “favorite book”: The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, cutting in and out, to fashion a new and original story.This was done by die-cutting each page.

Tree of Codes is an amazing work, leading me to wonder why was it was not published in a hardcover edition. I queried Jonathan. To which he responded:

Cloth covers wouldn’t work with the book for technical reasons: to glue them on, a book has to straddle something called—if I’m not mistaken—a saddle. That would have almost certainly injured the interior of the book. Some have commented that they prefer it as a paperback, because it helps ward off a bit of preciousness, increases the feeling of fragility, and also enhances the surprise of the interior. I probably would have preferred cloth covers.

Novelist Michael Faber is also concerned about the lack of a hard cover and has an unusual take

…the most remarkable thing about Tree of Codes is how very fragile it is….

…The idea of The Street of Crocodiles surviving in disguise, chopped to within an inch of its life but still clinging to its soul, strikes me as a bittersweet irony, an oddly fitting homage. It has also given rise to the most potent work of art that Jonathan Safran Foer has yet produced.

Visual Editions was founded in England in early 2009 by Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen, whose credo is apparently “…most times, the best books and experiences actually come out of how things shouldn’t be done.” Reportedly, they are already planning a second collaboration with Foer.

One Response to “A Tree Grew in Britain”


  1. Books, Books and More Books « ourmaninboston - February 23, 2011

    […] Stephen Crane Complete Poems -Christopher Benfey (LOA) West of Here-Jonathan Evision( Algonquin) Tree of Codes- Jonathan Safran Foer (Visual Editions) Known and Unknown- Donald Rumsfield Alone Together: Why We […]

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