Birnbaum and Jonathan Safran Foer

April 19, 2005 | 1

At The Morning News, Robert Birnbaum interviews Jonathan Safran Foer. In his email announcing the interview, Birnbaum tries to elevate the current level of discourse surrounding Foer, who seems to have a target painted on his back these days:

First, a word about what you will not read here – no reference to Steve Almond’s kvetchy and disingenuous hand wringing about Jon Foer’s new novel (at the exponentially vile and bombastic heaving by Harry Siegal about the same at the loathsome and vile NYC weekly that produces journalistic marvels such as “50 Loathsome New Yorkers” and includes novelists on that hit list.

The interview is long, and once again portrays Foer as thoughtful and unwilling to respond to criticism or praise, preferring to concentrate on just the reader and the writer:

Foer: Really good books are books that have two authors, the reader and the writer. Or maybe the idea of an author is actually just a combination of two people, the reader and the writer? So when writing you use the word “tree.” Four letters. Very, very short word. Fits a couple millimeters on a page. But in the reader’s mind it becomes a kind of idealized version of a tree, and that tree is different for each person who reads the book and because of that a book is customized for each person in a way a song never could be and as a painting never could be.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

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