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A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by Joseph Cornell
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A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by Joseph Cornell

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  330 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Jonathan Safran Foer, acclaimed young author of "Everything is Illuminated," fell in love with the work of Joseph Cornell while still a student at Princeton University and embarked on an ambitious project: to interest some of America's best-known writers to create original fiction and poetry inspired by the boxed collages of this beloved artist. Beautifully designed and pr ...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published June 2nd 2001 by Distributed Art Publishers (DAP) (first published 2001)
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Most of this book I didn't like. Why, then, the four stars? Well, two of the stories in here are so good that I would pay the purchase price of this book just to read them a single time. But then, would we buy anthologies if books were nickelodeons and bookstores arcades?
But the stories, worth their weight in parakeets:
Jonathan Safran Foer's "If the Aging Magician Should Begin to Believe", and
Robert Coover's "Grand Hotels"

I won't say any more about them, lest I spoil the surprise, but if you end
I was going to give this collection a 3-star rating, but certain stories jump out at you and stick in your mind long after reading like echoes pulsating through a deep cave.

Cornell's art is incredible to look it, and the brief biography JSF provides is enough to tell you all you need to know to help inform your reading. If you're going to explore this anthology, be sure to read the biographical note first, as the information can help inform your reading.

One thing that's apparent is Jonathan Safr
JJ Aitken
Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by the Work of Joseph Cornell.
This is quite simply one of those very special gems that only come along ever so often. It is a truly magical anthology of highly accomplished and stunningly inventive authors that have now given me a resource of new books to last me years. Even though the entire book is complete in its surprise and brilliance. If a flood were to appear and ruin all but the fourteen pages of The Grand Hotel by Robert Coover, I could still be cont
Jellie Dawn
Reading this book was a new experience for me. I love poetry but I can't write a single poem to save my life so I have held such high regard for proficient poets from the very first time I read a poem in my early formative years. The prose and poetry inspired by the work of Joseph Cornell is just so lush with wonderful images and vivid stories. Reading this novel felt a lot like how I felt watching Hugo. Just bearing witness to history beneath your eyes and feeling the words on your mouth is jus ...more
The main attractions of "A Convergence of Birds" are the reproductions of Joseph Cornell's bird boxes. The work inspired by the boxes is, as could probably be expected, uneven, and mostly unmemorable.

Capturing the spirit of Cornell, Joanna Scott's "Slide Show" was a delight. Also asking to be read again were the poems "Construction" (John Burhardt), "Magic Musee" (Martine Bellen), and "Birds of a Feather" (Diane Ackerman), and the stories "Emory Bird Hands' Birds" (Barry Lopez), "The Appearance
Some really strong pieces and some very disappointing ones. Interesting, in general (but not in every case) the bigger the name, the less good the piece. I will be keeping this book though, to have the plates of the Joseph Cornell boxes. And the pieces I thought particularly good were by: Howard Norman, Paul West, Robert Coover, Dale West and the editor. Some of my favorite writers have pieces in this volume that I thought fell particularly flat. Sigh. But there was a lot of playing around with ...more
Lori Koshork
Didn't read the fine print that this was a collection of works by other writers and all short stories that Foer collected. He wrote one himself that I read part way through but not with the same delight that I've read his novels. As a matter of personal preference, I prefer longer novels to short stories and poetry. After about 10 stories, I decided I would bring it back to the library. In my opinion the best part was the color image of Cornell boxes at the beginning of each story.
Could not see the images of cornell's boxes, as read this on my kindle, which was a shame. I really liked the idea of this book and the first story got me excited to read more. Unfortunately much of what was to come was a disappointment to me and I even skimmed parts which is rare for me. Some I found boring and some poetry I had no idea what it was about and not in an intriguing way! Safran Foer's piece was good, I just wish it was all so good as the start and finish...
Joshua Weichhand
I admit my attraction to this book was rooted, not in any affinity towards Cornell's art, but more so a compulsive need to absorb any and all things Jonathan Safran Foer. Regardless the motivation, in the end this was a beautiful collection of poetry and short stories with the inclusion of Cornell's art as inspiration for the pieces being equally inviting.

Not a bad compilation for a college student with no experience in publishing. It's quite a bar to set.
Beautiful book, and beautiful, novel idea for a book. The poetry ranges from "out there", to boring, to inspiring. The artwork ranges from amazing to inspiring and back to amazing (but you know that already - that's why this book was dedicated to the artwork and artist). I borrowed it from the library but plan on buying is soon - would make a welcomed additional to my personal library. The kind of book you can pick up and read and ogle on any day.
The edition that I own of this book is probably the most aesthetically pleasing, valuable, and treasured object I own besides personal keepsakes. It is signed by all of the contributing authors and there are color plates of the artwork. I look at it and I feel like a millionaire.

Foer collected some fine stories inspired by an amazing artist. It's well worth reading and feeling and looking at.
I read this book on recommendation from a fellow passenger on the El who seemed enlightened about such matters, and seemed knowledgeable about other worldly things of interest. Not the best recommendation I've ever gotten. I didn't find this book all that interesting, although it was beautifully produced,a nd the story behind the bird boxes was good.
The writings didn't hold my attention at all (and I skipped most of it, after reading the first page of each different author). Mostly disappointing because I love Jonathan Safran Foer's stuff so much, and thought this would be more of the same --I didn't realize until I got it today that he was merely the editor rather than The Author.
I'm giving this a four because I really REALLY like Joseph Cornell. The book is put together beautifully, and of course Cornell's art stands out because of how awesome it is. Some of the fiction and poetry is good, although some of it is not really my cup of tea. I mostly looked at the pictures, honestly. The pretty pretty pictures.
I am giving two stars because of the amazing concept of the book (writing inspired by the work of Joseph Cornell) and some of the imagery from the writing. Otherwise the writing was over my head in "creativity" or abstractness. it took me years to be able to get through the whole book (consistently stopping and starting of course).
It is sad, but I did not love this. It was so beautifully presented, with prints of Cornell's bird boxes for each story and Safran Foer makes me so excited because I've loved him so much. His story at the end was amazing, but a lot of the rest were so surreal that I couldn't get into them. Some of the poetry was nice though.
Alison Smith
A beautifully produced book; one of my sale bargains. I didn't enjoy the poetry - too obscure for my plebian taste - but I did enjoy some of the prose pieces by Joanna Scott (at last - some humour!) Robert Coovber's wildly inventive piece - would like to read more of his wor; and then Lydia Davis - weird, but interesting.
A huge fan of Cornell, there were maybe five written pieces that really resonated with me in this collection, Jonathan Safran Foer's being one of them. However, there are quite a few lovely color photos of boxes I had not seen and it did artistically inspire, if only because it got me thinking about the artwork.
Other reviewers have captured my own ambivalence about this collection. It left me melancholic and suspended in unease: suitable for Joseph Cornell's boxes, which are, themselves, cool and beautiful and ambiguous. The accompanying plates of Cornell's boxes are gorgeous and worth the time and effort by themselves.
a collection of writings based on the art of Joseph Cornell, an eccentric and obsessive artist who I can't help but see as a hero aside from the fact that he lived with his mother for most of his life. Someone who resented "growing up", and sort of never did. Or at least did his best at resisting.
i love concept books! j. s. foer brought this book of short stories and poems t/g - all inspired/centered around joseph cornell's collages/boxes. do i love every piece in it - nope, but i like that these stories make me think from a different angle and are not linear.
I've only read a few of these stories... and they've all been horrible. It's kind of a sad travesty of a tribute to one of my favorite artists. I was going to give them another try someday... someday perhaps far from now.
Hannah Strom
Some of these stories i didn't like but "Emory Bear Hands' Birds" by Barry Lopez and Jonathan Safran Foer's idea behind the book and short story "If the Aging Magician Should Begin to Believe" i loved.
I bought this because of the convergence of two of my favorite things, Joseph Cornell and poetry. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I was sorely disappointed. I found it dry and spiritless.

only a couple of the works in this collection really caught my attention but, if you like cornell's art, this book is worth getting for the brilliant quality of the photographs alone...
Foer edited this. The best part about this book is the letter that he received from one writer explaining that he would not submit a piece of work for publication. It's funny.
A lesser book than Everything is Illuminated. Foer, who is a member of the Brooklyn cabal is one of the most original novelists within (and outside NYC).
Joseph Cornell is one of my favorite artists and when I found this sweet little book of people writing stories in reference to his art I swooned.
I found this book to be very enjoyable. I love anthologies and collections of all kinds, and an arty tribute to Joseph Cornell fits the ticket.
Khat Fish
Some of the stories were fantastic, some were great, some were "wtf?!" but ALL the pictures are amazing! I'm a Joseph Cornell fangirl though...
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Jonathan Safran Foer (born 1977) is an American writer best known for his 2002 novel Everything Is Illuminated. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, the novelist Nicole Krauss, and their son, Sasha.
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“Make for yourself a world you can believe in.
It sounds simple, I know. But it’s not. Listen, there are a million worlds you could make for yourself. Everyone you know has a completely different one—the woman in 5G, that cab driver over there, you. Sure, there are overlaps, but only in the details. Some people make their worlds around what they think reality is like. They convince themselves that they had nothing to do with their worlds’ creations or continuations. Some make their worlds without knowing it. Their universes are just sesame seeds and three-day weekends and dial tones and skinned knees and physics and driftwood and emerald earrings and books dropped in bathtubs and holes in guitars and plastic and empathy and hardwood and heavy water and high black stockings and the history of the Vikings and brass and obsolescence and burnt hair and collapsed souffles and the impossibility of not falling in love in an art museum with the person standing next to you looking at the same painting and all the other things that just happen and are. But you want to make for yourself a world that is deliberately and meticulously personalized. A theater for your life, if I could put it like that. Don’t live an accident. Don’t call a knife a knife. Live a life that has never been lived before, in which everything you experience is yours and only yours. Make accidents on purpose. Call a knife a name by which only you will recognize it. Now I’m not a very smart man, but I’m not a dumb one, either. So listen: If you can manage what I’ve told you, as I was never able to, you will give your life meaning.”
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