Time, Foer, a Puppy
When Jonathan Safran Foer was on his book tour for Everything Is Illuminated, he handed out little plastic bags. Inside each bag was a pencil, a piece of paper, and an envelope with an address printed on it. This was his "Self-Portrait Project." Everyone was encouraged to create some representation of themselves, put it in the envelope, append a stamp, and drop it in a mailbox. I did as I was instructed.
His tour was in 2002. I never heard anything more about the "Self-Portrait Project" and didn't worry my pretty little head about it.
On December 18, 2003, I received the following e-mail from Mr. Foer:
I wanted to send you a New Years card. That, of course, will require an
address. I'm not very good with computers, and will no doubt make a mess of
this, so could you send it with your full name, too. Seems a bit lame, I
know, but it's the only way I know to keep things straight. And if it makes
any difference, I think there's a photo of my dog in the bargain...
Thanks a lot. Hope you're doing well.
Again, I did as I was instructed.
I received in today's mail a clear-plastic box, about the size and shape of a small book. Written in black marker across the lid is the following date: 02/16/08. The box contains two things, both precisely the right size for the box: (1) a photograph -- a real photograph with matte finish on Kodak paper -- of a cute black puppy on a red leash sitting in colorful autumn leaves; it looks up at the viewer through the date on the lid; and (2) a rectangle of thick white paper -- about the thickness of a 3 x 5 card -- with typing on one side and handwriting on the other. The handwriting -- green, ballpoint -- reads: "Wishing you happy times." Under that, in the same green ink, is Jonathan Safran Foer's signature. The handwritten side faces up, so that when the box is closed it's hidden beneath the photo. So picture it. A puppy looks up through "02/16/08." You turn the box over and see typing, which goes all the way to the edges of the box -- a field of type. Here's what the type says:
A couple of months ago, Nicole & I were walking down the street & saw a puppy wearing an "ADOPT ME" vest. "What kind of dog is she?" I asked the man who'd brought her. "Not sure, really." "Where does she come from?" "She was found in the cemetery, tied up." * As happens every December, I'm obsessed with the passage of time. But this year I have a 4-legged reminder following me around. It's said that dogs age 7 times faster than do humans. I think about it too much, & have gone as far as figuring out the date on which George will become older than me. What will it be like when our aging paths cross? Will the leash between us feel the opposing pulls any differently? * Autumn happened last night. George wasn't at all puzzled or frightened by the blankets of leaves this morning. Only curious. Powerfully curious. She dug her head deep, as if trying to bury herself, & then bucked, kicking up red, yellow and orange in every direction. Experiencing her discovery, it was my first autumn, too. I'd never seen a living being have so much fun---pure, uncorrupted fun, the kind of fun that confirms something good about life. She didn't want to go, & I didn't want to take her...
Here Foer writes about his collection of blank pages.
Here's Foer's Identity Theory interview.
Here you can listen to Foer discuss Everything Is Illuminated on Bookworm.
Here you can listen to Foer on On Point.