The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

[The S]tree[t] of [Cro]cod[il]es

I haven't been feeling much lately.

I didn't know it until just now.

I just sat down to read a book, Tree of Codes, the latest creation from one of my favorite human beings, Jonathan Safran Foer. What's amazing about this book is that it is part of another, The Street of Crocodiles, by Bruno Schulz, who I'd never heard of before but now understand as one of the most important authors of the 20th century. JSF took Schulz's book, his favorite book, and by process of exhumation, erasure, scissors, literally, physically cut out the words that were not part of this story, leaving this story only.

It's as brilliant as it sounds.

It's 134 pages, and it just took me about 25 minutes to read because it's one or maybe two sentences per page. Do you understand? It's mostly cut-away.

I've got to read The Street of Crocodiles now, because I need to know from whence this came.

But as I read, even though the pages sort of catch on each other and you've got to go slowly because the sentences don't necessarily make literal sense and yet they're beautiful poetry, I began to see the story coming to life in my mind. And quickly the cut out ceased to distract me but rather contributed to the brokenness of the story it told and I was there with Father and Mother and the crowd and the city and sky and the masks and lies and the whole world.

He's a genius, I'm telling you.

I began to cry, as I am wont to do when I read something just so. I am in awe of the power of the human mind and human soul to create something such as this. Normally I would be appalled that someone had cut a book to pieces but instead for The Street of Crocodiles it is precisely the fate of this text to have been cut apart to become Tree of Codes, I think.

Lately I have been getting a lot of my schoolwork done and being fairly serious about it. I haven't been going out much because I am reading, instead. Or exhausted from the thinking, instead. Or exhausted from the weight of the world around me. The world is a place, I've said.

But having read Tree of Codes tonight has reminded me that the world is a place. The world is full of brilliance and feeling and beauty and pain and death and love and life and fear and people and things and words and wounds and trees and books and water and smiles and me.

The words of Tree of Codes are on the page in a way that is different than any other book and therefore come off the page in a way that is different than any other book.

This is what it feels like, I think, to feel.


Everyone complained about this reading but I am loving it.