Jonathan Safran Foer and choosing the right medium

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jonathan Safran Foer created his new book, Tree of Codes, by taking his favorite novel, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schultz, and cutting out words to form a new story. The result is a decidedly analog work of art that could never be reproduced in digital form. Vanity Fair has an interview with Foer on how he made the book, in which the interviewer tries to goad him into claiming that the book is some kind of last stand for the printed page:

VF: In this increasingly digital age, do you see a project like this--book-as-sculptural object--as one way to preserve the printed page?

JSF: Not really. These decisions are going to be democratic. This book is simply not going to find a big audience. It’s naive to think it would. I’m not really interested in resisting what’s going on, even though I have strong ideas about what a good book is. It’s possible to make things that aren’t just money-makers. Something wonderful for its own sake.

His impulse to create this book was a response to Schultz's novel, not make a statement about e-books. The interviewer is right, you can't re-create this three-dimensional object in digital form, but it could have just as easily been the original Schultz text with passages redacted, CIA-style, which could be an e-book. But this is the form it happened to take, which is obviously more interesting. It's not about choosing sides, it's about creating the most compelling work of art.

(via Kottke and The Millions)