Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Unabridged Pocketbook of Lightning - Jonathan Safran Foer

Read: December 2008
“There's no greater feeling than inspiring someone. That might even be the point of art.”
So writes Jonathan Safran Foer in the introduction to The Unabridged Pocketbook of Lightening. It is a view I thoroughly agree with and believe should be at the forefront of all discussion on art. Art is about creating something new which makes the world a better place to live in. In my opinion this is sometimes forgotten in the modern obsessions with the marketplace and making money. But that is an argument for elsewhere.
The Unabridged Pocketbook of Lightening is a tiny pocket sized book produced as part of a Penguin's 70th birthday celebrations and now pretty difficult to get hold of. But never fear, its contents can all be found elsewhere. Indeed, almost all of it is made up of sample chapters from what became Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The remaining ten pages comprise a short story entitled 'A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease' which was originally published in the New Yorker in 2003 and can now be read here:

It is a powerful work which imagines a set of marks which could be used to express on paper the ebb and flow of conversation where the present punctuation is insufficient. So we have marks for silence, marks for willed silence, marks for what should have been said but isn't, marks to express resigned acceptance, and marks to convey the tone a voice something is spoken in. It is a fantastically perceptive little list, reading it you get the impression of how many gaps there are in the English language and how much we could improve. I sometimes wonder whether other novelists shouldn't just adopt these marks en masse and include this little primer in the back of their books to explain it to their readers.

What Jonathan Safran Foer does in much of his work is to experiment with new ways of looking at language, and new forms of communicating on a page. His inventive approach is exciting, liberating, and enjoyable. Put simply, stop reading this review, click on the link above, and spend 10 minutes reading this fantastic little story.
And if you enjoyed it, why not read these other great short stories too?

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