Tree of Codes–A Dialectic Creation

I first approached the book in a sort of rhizomatic way. Reading the pages with the layers in tact (not lifted or separated). It created an intricately layered effect and one that elicited merely “sonic” meaning. I read the texts for the sounds the cut-up, half-shielded words produced, and for the tactile texture of the boxes–in this way, I got a feeling of the overall effect of this novel, clinging onto the fuller words. I found myself putting more emphasis on the words or phrases that were fuller and literally closer  to me (on a more recent page), as well as sort of begin to create my own words from the fragments. I read this way for the first 20 or so pages, finding myself clinging to some reoccurring words that served as a sort of bridge or thread from page to page (like “memories”); I mourned the loss of these words when they were gone.

Then, in order to make some sense of the narrative of the book, I started over, beginning to read Tree of Codes by lifting up the pages and reading what was on the page (not reading through the windows). It was then that I began to really see the lyrical genius of Foer’s reconstruction of a narrative. In a sort of dialectical process–thesis: Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles, antithesis: a pair of scissors or an eraser, colliding and spawning a beautiful synthesis: Tree of Codes–Foer created a new piece of art, a brilliant, poetic narrative.

I began to see the book as a sort of extended “found poem,” which for those of you do not know, is a poem formed by using the words of another text (i.e. people have done “wikipedia” poems, or in high school I wrote a poem using the words of an act from Hamlet). While the words are “unoriginal,” the ordering and the content is very original. In found poems, you are able to move words around, etc. but what makes this different–and perhaps more difficult–is that the narrative must be uncovered, or created, really, through the act of erasing, adhering more closely to the original text. But the cut outs/spaces are as important as they are in poems: the spacing in poems adds tempo to the act of reading, which I felt while reading this book. I read it like I would read poetry, lingering on different phrases and words based on the spacing around them. For example, on page 43, the phrase, “like boats waiting to sail into the starless dawn” is read completely when spaced out like this:

like            boats waiting

to sail into the                                                                      starless


It creates a lingering effect, a certain heightened significance in this new image spawned from erasure.

Lastly, by the end of the book, I was seemingly slapped in the face with the word “META,” as Foer seemingly put little hints in there about the process of reading this book. On page 49, even though the Father said it, it still speaks of the book as a whole: “Reducing life in not a sin… it is sometimes necessary.” Here, perhaps Foer argues that his method is a “necessary” or beneficial one–not a “reductive” or destructive process. Below are a few more hints about reading this book:

  • pg. 92-93: we find ourselves part of the tree of codes. Reality is as thin as paper only the small section immediately before us able to endure
  • pg. 95: and yet, and yet–the last secret of the tree of codes is that nothing can ever reach a definite conclusion.
  • pg. 96: We shall wander along yet not able to understand. The tree of codes was better than a paper imitation.



~ by khughes80 on March 31, 2013.

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