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Tree of Codes

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  3,659 ratings  ·  418 reviews
Tree of Codes is a haunting new story by best-selling American writer, Jonathan Safran Foer. With a different die-cut on every page, Tree of Codes explores previously unchartered literary territory. Initially deemed impossible to make, the book is a first — as much a sculptural object as it is a work of masterful storytelling. Tree of Codes is the story of an enormous last ...more
Paperback, 139 pages
Published November 8th 2010 by Visual Editions
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,659 ratings  ·  418 reviews

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MJ Nicholls
Apr 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
Re-read 29 Jan 2012

This book is the Princess Diana of precious literature. A dainty little princess, frangible, kind-hearted, captivating . . . but ultimately hollow and deeply uninteresting. Imagine taking Diana out for dinner. She would present herself at your door in a bone-hugging black dress, holding out a dainty hand as you guide her into the limo. You fear too much pressure on her fingers might splinter the bones below, so you tweezer-grip her pinkie, place a gentle thumbnail on her waist
Dec 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: po-mo

"...the crowd laughs at the misery which does not know what it is and why it is. The crowd laughs. Do you understand the sadness of comic genius!"

There's a few material aspects of Foer's latest book that I love:

1. cover by gray318 (who also designed Foer's two previous novels)
2. comment on the back by legendary artist Olafur Eliason
3. Text printed on roughly 100gsm ivory matt tone paper, matt card (200gsm?) cover with gorgeous binding

Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye and and ARM's institute of Abori
Dave Schaafsma
I skimmed several dozen Goodreads reviews of this book and it would seem this book is incredibly divisive, in a way. You either seriously despise this book as pretentious and gimmicky and pomo (which I think are the three most used words in the hater reviews) or you think it is brilliant. Usually the battle lines are drawn in terms of whether you hate or love Foer’s work. I have to say I did not want to read it because I have not been able to finish either of Foer’s wildly popular novels, so tha ...more
Anthony Vacca
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
Someone dead and marginally famous once said, The surest form of flattery is to take your favorite book by an author and scissor it to shreds, until the resulting carnage forms an elaborate meshing of brittle die cuts that, if carefully fingered through, convey in amputated words, phrases and punctuation, something like a prose poem. And that’s exactly what happened to Bruno Schulz’s collection of short stories, Street of Crocodiles, when pseudo-literary savant Jonathan Safran Foer—famous for hi ...more
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
As a story, this does not work.

As a sculptural object, it is a wonderful thing.

If you are planning on "reading it on your kindle", good luck! The book is a paper-cut collage, making a fragile text out of elaborately cut pages, where text has been removed from The Street of Crocodiles and the gaps and holes allow sentences and fragments to shine through and create new text.

I love the idea but find little literary value in it. My suggestion would be to read the original text of The Street of Croco
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american
I emailed Karen to put a copy of this book aside for me yesterday. For whatever reason that didn’t work out* because the first floor felt the need to steal every copy, so when I went in greg told me that I could get a copy on the first floor. Anyway, I was up on the 4th floor picking up the books I needed to buy, such as Steve Lowe’s book, last year’s best European, and sadly Kirk Jones’ book hadn’t made it in yet. Anyway after I finished advertising for the bizarre authors I went to the first f ...more
Dec 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
music: Radiohead - “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors”

4.5 stars.

Bruno Schalz – “The Street Of Crocodiles (JSF Die-Cut Remix)” ::)
If you’re a bit confused at first, reading the afterword – which does not spoil, really – will be helpful. I don’t think there’s much spoilers in the main text (built on the words left on each page; but you can also simultaneously read the page with the other pages’ words sometimes showing through). Only the right side of the cut pages have text, which made it a quickish read.
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wishlist-to-own
Update - Re-read this piece after reading the original piece that it's based off of, Bruno Schulz's Street of Crocodiles, and love it all the more. He has created a piece of art separate from the original work, while keeping Schulz's beauty in words and phrases. I would highly recommend giving Street of Crocodiles a read and then re-reading this piece, since it gives you a more complete appreciation of the work. I love how the Mother is a more ephemeral figure in this book, while in Street of Cr ...more
Adriana Jacobs
Feb 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
I've had Tree of Codes on my night stand for about two months. There's a coffee mug stain on the cover--it's very faint but raised--and I no longer recall if it came with the book. It suits it nonetheless. Let me start with my first impressions:

The copyright page explains succinctly the method that Safran Foer used to create Tree of Codes from Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles (if you haven't read this, do so without further delay). It does not mention--to my disappointment--which transla
Derek Emerson
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-books-read
Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, Tree of Codes, is an unusual work. As opposed to creating a novel from scratch, Foer takes his “favorite book,” The Street of Crocodiles by the Polish-Jewish writer, Bruno Schulz, and cuts away that text to create a new novel.

It is a unique idea and raises the philosophical questions of what makes a novel, what is authorship, and even what is morally acceptable in taking work from others. Foer gives no authorial credit to Schulz, presumably because he sees this as
Alexandra Turney
Dec 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us
If there were lots of other books made in the same way, I'm not sure that Tree of Codes would have had the same impact - its uniqueness is undoubtedly part of its appeal. I admit I bought it mainly because of its novelty value, and because I'd been given book vouchers. I'm a poor student, and don't usually have a spare £25 to spend on a 134 page paperback! Anyway, I've been showing it to friends whenever they've been in my room, and the general consensus is, "Ooh, this is cool", but today I fina ...more
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
You could call this book pretentious and gimmicky. You wouldn't necessarily be wrong.
I really enjoyed it.
I need to re-read it a few times now.
Dec 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Where to begin? Well, I've only just finished my first read-through, and I'm sure there will be more (it takes only 30 minutes start to finish), so my thoughts are sort of an "initial reaction." I have loved Jonathan Safran Foer's work, so my expectations for this were very high. The physical book is beautiful. The cut-out pages create a collage of type that simultaneously drew me in and made me feel I wasn't quite smart enough to know how to read it. I figured out that you have to lift each pag ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Reading Tree of Codes was refreshing, compelling, and an overall interesting experience. For those who are not aware, the majority of the text is cut out—literally—with a select few words scattered on each page. When you open the book, all of the words that are visible kind of just mix into each other, which makes the book almost impossible to read. I found the best method of reading this book was to either place a blank piece of paper behind the page you are currently reading, so only the words ...more
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fiction
This was a fascinating read. Not only is the work original physically, but what's written inside is just spectacular. Every word was so carefully chosen to create this story. And from every individual sentence such powerful images and ideas came to mind. It was incredible!
This is not only a literary piece, it's also a work of art.
While reading I took notes of the phrases and sentences that spoke to me, or were just beautifully phrased.
This is a definite must-read. You will learn to appreciate li
Katie Parker
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
The book is more of a structural piece of art than a piece of fiction. Die-cut from Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles, Foer came up with a completely different story from the original work. And that story was actually rather hard for me to follow. They way the words were chosen and strung together, I felt like I was reading especially eloquent magnetic poetry. That’s not to say that it wasn’t good, but the actual plot is just a little difficult to make sense of due to the highly poetic feel:

Sep 15, 2011 rated it liked it
I mainly give Tree of Codes this middle of the road rating, not as a testament to the book -- which I feel might actually be too personal of a reading experience to really rate and explain why to others -- but because I feel that it requires more time, more rereading, before I can give it a really thoughtful star or two, one way or the other. It took me about as long to figure out how to read the story as it did for me to actually read the story; somewhat of a unique experience, but one that I f ...more
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a masterpiece in so many ways. To take one's favorite book and make physical art out of it is such a beautiful thing. The language of the original Street of Crocodiles is the most poetic and beautiful thing ever, and this book Tree of Codes is the most beautiful book physically I have ever come across; to make art out of punctuation and random words is just mind-blowing. ...more
Butterflies And Books
•I am conflicted about how many stars I wanna give this book.
•When I first saw this book on bookstagram it looked so beautiful and very interesting and definitely the best piece of art I've ever seen.
•I consider this as a art of its own because the author has taken his favourite book and has memories the wordsz the phrases so much and has looked at it so much that he was able to delete some of it in it to create a whole new story.
•At the from author part it says that he was always wanting to do
Kelly K
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
I had wanted to read this book for the LONGEST time because of it's unique formatting. Instead of blackout poetry this is physically cut out storytelling. The story itself was alright but the real entertainment was just reading a book with a bunch of cut out hunks. Sorry, "cut out hunks" may be misleading as there are no actual images of totally ripped dudes in this book. ...more
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have not decided what is getting kicked off the top ten list but something is definitely getting kicked off the list after reading this, this, amazing thing. Book is not a word appropriate enough.

It can't be described except to call it a literal work of art, not like the writing is so beautiful it reminds one of fine art. No it is actually an art piece, something to be appreciated over and over again, Die Cuts ( I believe this is what this type of book is called)is a foreign concept to me, and
This book is so extraordinary. The story itself is haunting, and the book is a really beautiful and precious object.
Gabriella timelordsandwizards
This book was so fun to read! And I really enjoyed the story as well. Definitely recommend this to everyone!
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
such a strange and wonderful reading experience. This is a book made from another book. Each sentence is die cut from the pages of The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. It feels like a thousand butterflies just burst into my face, some beautiful, some razorsharp and I am left with more meaning than understanding.
I am on my way to see a ballet based on this book performed by the Paris Opera Ballet with stage design by Olafur Eliasson. I am glad that I had the chance to read Tree of Codes fir
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful quick poetic read. It reads like a Mark Z. Danielewski work, and is as creative. While reading, it read like revelatory poetry and made me begin to have realizations as to what this story means for both the reader being changed while reading it and the story itself being changed by erasure.

An incredible work.
Oct 11, 2022 rated it really liked it
3.5 but would rather round up cause it’s cool to like pretentious things. as an art piece really cool and loved that there was actually some cool quotes that were patched together from different sentences. didn’t understand how to read it at first. want to read the original book and see what the story is cause like i didn’t get it
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
The physical book gets a very solid 5 stars.
The prose within that physical book gets a very low 1 star. Utter garbage.
Law of averages give this book 3 stars (even though it does not deserve them).
Dec 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Did I actually read this? No. Do I like looking at it? Yes.
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was ok
As an objet d'art, it's very cool. As a book, it's deeply uninteresting. ...more
catherine ♡
Jul 23, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, experimental
As an artist I felt like just holding the physical book and flipping through its pages was an incredible experience; I loved how gentle you had to be with it, how your eyes had to scan the entire page to figure out where the text was and how that created pauses and silences in your head as you read it.

As a story, though, I felt like it wasn't that interesting and I wasn't exactly sure what the book was about.

So: three stars.
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The Life of a Boo...: Tree of Codes 5 38 Apr 16, 2014 02:45PM  
The Street of Crocodiles 3 40 Jul 26, 2012 08:20AM  

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Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of two bestselling, award-winning novels, Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and a bestselling work of nonfiction, Eating Animals. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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