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

Overview

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 produced--with over 20 tipped-on color plates, some of which are reproduced here for the first time--this original literary anthology will please ...
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Overview

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 produced--with over 20 tipped-on color plates, some of which are reproduced here for the first time--this original literary anthology will please readers and art lovers alike.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This elegantly packaged limited edition (350 copies) of A Convergence of Birds is signed by each of the 21 noted contributors on special vellum sheets that are hand-tipped into the book on the title page of each writer's section. Bound in beige linen and boxed in a handsome slipcase, this edition includes 26 tipped-in color plates, with details about the artwork printed on the page under each plate.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141012704
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 11/28/2007

Meet the Author

Jonathan Safran Safran Foer
Joseph Cornell was born Nyack, New York in 1903. This American sculptor was one of the pioneers and most celebrated exponents of assemblage—an artform influenced by the Surrealists. Cornell was best-known for his shadow boxes—relatively small constructions, within glass-fronted shallow boxes or frames, made of a wide variety of found objects, maps, photographs, engravings, and other materials. The Cornell boxes possess a unique visual magic, and their selection and arrangement are extraordinarily evocative and filled with personal symbolism. He was also an avant-garde and experimental filmmaker who lived New York City for most of his life in a frame house on Utopia Parkway in Queens, New York, with his mother and his brother, Robert. Cornell died in 1972.

Rick Moody is the author of numerous books of fiction, including The Ice Storm, Purple America, Demonology and, most recently, The Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions. He has received the Aga Khan Prize and the Addison Metcalf Award, among other honors.

Howard Norman is the author of many works, including The Bird Artist, The Museum Guard and The Haunting of L. He is the winner of a Lannan Foundation Award in Fiction.

Biography

Recent literary history is rife with auspicious debuts, and Jonathan Safran Foer's arrival was one of 2002's brightest and most media-friendly. After all, the backstory was publicist-ready: Everything Is Illuminated began as a thesis at Princeton under advisers Joyce Carol Oates and Jeffrey Eugenides, and Houghton Mifflin reportedly paid somewhere around half a million dollars for the rights.

Foer achieved a fresh, creative approach to the English language by viewing it through the eyes of his foreign narrator, a young Ukranian man named Alex who works in a family tour operating business targeted toward American Jews seeking their family roots. Alex's comical, dictionary-aided writing consists of not-quite-right sentences such as "He is always promenading into things. It was only four days previous that he made his eye blue from a mismanagement with a brick wall." Alex's client, an American Jew named Jonathan Safran Foer, wants to find a woman who hid his grandfather from the Nazis. The two set out -- with an old picture, and the name Augustine -- to find the woman, bringing Alex's grandfather and an odiferous seeing-eye dog.

The story unfolds both through Alex's eyes and in a later correspondence with Jonathan, who reveals chapters of a fictionalized version of Augustine's story. Despite the novel's decidedly earnest and serious themes, what's most striking about it is its strange, resonant humor. Publishers Weekly saw "demented genius" in it; and Francine Prose, who also used the adjective "demented" for Foer's writing, noted in the New York Times Book Review, "The problem [with the book] is, you keep laughing out loud, losing your place, starting again, then stopping because you're tempted to call your friends and read them long sections of Jonathan Safran Foer's assured, hilarious prose."

Since Foer admitted to doing little research (although he did take a trip similar to the fictional Foer's, inspiring the book), and the historical fiction sections earned some critical gripes for being uneven (Salon called them "dime-store García Márquez"), the chief strength of Everything Is Illuminated lies in a scope and wit that are stunning from an author who was still finishing up college at the time he began it. The paperback rights for Everything Is Illuminated later went for reportedly close to $1 million.

Foer has had an undergrad's dream experience when it comes to consorting with eminent forbears: Russell Banks -- a professor in Foer's senior year -- came to his aid when he assembled A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by the Work of Joseph Cornell, which was published in 2001.

If Foer follows in the footsteps of fellow critical debut darlings Eugenides and Donna Tartt, it will be another ten years before we see a second novel. Fans will hope that instead he follows Oates's more prolific example.

Good To Know

According to a Princeton publication, Foer has been a "math tutor, archivist, ghost writer, farm sitter, advertising consultant and receptionist."

One of the many projects on Foer's "Project Museum" Web site is the Empty Page Project, a collection of blank paper from various authors -- the paper they normally use to write (anything) on. Nothing is on display yet, but according to a Guardian article, Foer has acquired pages from Paul Auster, Susan Sontag and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Both of Foer's brothers are editorial types: Franklin is an editor at the New Republic, and Joshua is a recent Yale grad and a contributor to Slate.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Jonathan Safran Foer
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 21, 1977
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Philosophy, Princeton University, 1999

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Emory Bird Hands' Birds
Barry Lopez 19
Rowing in Eden
Erik Anderson Reece 29
It Generally Leads a Solitary Life or Lives in Pairs
Rick Moody 33
The Box Artist
Joyce Carol Oates 41
Showing an Episode
Diane Williams 51
The Cursive Example
Howard Norman 55
Construction
John Burghardt 63
Boxed In
Paul West 63
Nine Boxes
Siri Hustvedt 93
The Grand Hotels
Robert Coover 99
For Brother Robert
Bradford Morrow 115
Magic Musee
Martine Bellen 125
The Appearance of Things
Dale Peck 131
Slide Show
Joanna Scott 143
Of A Feather
Diane Ackerman 151
Bookmark, Horizon (Emily Dickinson)
Ann Lauterbach 154
Because I Could Not Stop For Death
Mary Caponegro 157
Grid Box
Rosmarie Waldrop 181
Song
Robert Pinksy 185
The Impetus was Delight
Lydia Davis 187
Poem in Which a Bird Does Some of the Talking
John Yau 199
If the Aging Magician Should Begin to Believe
Jonathan Safran Foer 203
A {miniature} Biography 223
Notes on the Contributors 229
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2001

    The infinite inspiration of art

    As one who loves the assemblage art of Joseph Cornell and who has tried to mimic his work (have never even come close to his most uninspiring pieces), I will say this is one of the best books I have read in a long while. The poems and fiction inspired by Joseph Cornell's series of boxes he created about birds speak not only to the writers' love of Cornell but to the power that art has to inspire. This prose and poetry is diverse, powerful, affective and magical. Each piece is preceded by a color plate of the Cornell work that inspired it making this book as well a small collection of Cornell's magic. I am giving everyone on my holiday list a copy.

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