Literary Birthday – 21 February – Jonathan Safran Foer

Happy Birthday, Jonathan Safran Foer, born 21 February 1977.


  1. My test for writing is always, is this fun or does it feel like a job? Is it moving me? Or am I just fulfilling my own expectations—or even worse, somebody else’s?
  2. I usually write away from home, in coffee shops, on trains, on planes, in friends’ houses. I like places where there’s stuff going on that you can lift your eyes, see something interesting, overhear a conversation.
  3. The best books are the ones that ask the most questions.
  4. I’ve also always loved the idea of illuminated manuscripts – embellished, overstuffed books. And I love the idea of books being more than books, or being, rather, something other than books. I think the ideal experience of my book would be like listening to music.
  5. I never wanted to write a novel that was merely read. Or merely liked or appreciated. Ideally, I want the reader to feel complicit in authorship of the book. There’s a certain kind of book where reader sits here and the author sits here. I hate those books….
  6. You rarely hear writers talk about the editing process. But editing is everything. The writing itself is no big deal. The editing, and even more than that, the self-doubt, is excruciating. It’s like the difference between having a crush and a marriage.
  7. A book is an intimate object whether you are conscious of it when you are writing it or not. A book is something that is seen with the eyes on a shelf, pulled off the shelf with the hand, taken home. What percentage of people do you think read a book in bed? 80? 90? People read books in bathtubs. People read books in their easy chairs with their glass of wine or their coffee, their cat.
  8. But when you write a book, you can do something useful with it. You can get it on the outside of you. And, if you publish the book, you can enter into a conversation with the world.
  9. I’m not the kind of writer who has books he wants to fill or novels he wants to write… I find it very difficult to stumble on a subject that’s interesting. So when something comes along, I don’t question too much whether I should be doing it.
  10. No book survives unless readers talk about it and spread it. It doesn’t matter how good reviews are given. It doesn’t matter how much the author is paid; the survival of books depends on readers.

Jonathan Safran Foer is an American author. He is best known for writing the novels, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. In 2009, he published a non-fiction book, Eating Animals. Foer teaches creative writing at New York University. He is married to author, Nicole Krauss.

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 21st February 2013