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Four New Messagesby Joshua Cohen
Synopses & Reviews
A quartet of audacious fictions that capture the pathos and absurdity of life in the age of the internet
*A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice*
* One of Flavorwire's "50 Books That Define the Past Five Years in Literature"
A spectacularly talented young writer has returned from the present with Four New Messages, urgent and visionary dispatches that seek to save art, sex, and even alienation from corporatism and technology run rampant.
In "Emission," a hapless drug dealer in Princeton is humiliated when a cruel co-ed exposes him exposing himself on a blog gone viral. "McDonald's" tells of a frustrated pharmaceutical copywriter whose imaginative flights fail to bring solace because of a certain word he cannot put down on paper. In "The College Borough" a father visiting NYU with his daughter remembers a former writing teacher, a New Yorker exiled to the Midwest who refuses to read his students' stories, asking them instead to build a replica of the Flatiron Building. "Sent" begins mythically in the woods of Russia, but in a few virtuosic pages plunges into the present, where an aspiring journalist finds himself in a village that shelters all the women who've starred in all the internet porn he's ever enjoyed.
Highbrow and low-down, these four intensely felt stories explain what happens when the virtual begins to colonize the real — they harness the torrential power and verbal dexterity that have established Cohen as one of America's most brilliant younger writers.
"Cohen's newest (after Witz) is a quartet of short stories addressing the plight of the failed writer in a number of bizarre scenarios that effectively highlight contemporary concerns regarding authenticity and artifice. In 'Emission,' a failed novelist-turned-businessman relates the tale of a hapless collegiate drug deliverer, Richard Monomian, who comes horrifically face-to-face with his online identity when a fellow partygoer and partaker of Richard's 'snax' blogs about one of Richard's sordid sexual capers. This unsettling confluence of one's real and digital selves is revisited in the dreamily distorted 'Sent,' wherein an up-and-coming journalist finds himself in a settlement housing all the women he'd ever ogled in online pornography. By zeroing in on the loaded metaphors of the Internet, as when Cohen refers to a porn site's catalogue of women as 'its Home,' the author thriftily lends a great deal of rhetorical force to stories that less adventurous readers might deem too opaque or experimental. Though the pieces occasionally lose track of a persuasive narrative, Cohen has nevertheless crafted a series of innovative literary romps. Agent: Georgia Cool, Mary Evans Inc." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in New Jersey. He is the author of five books, including A Heaven of Others and Witz. His nonfiction has appeared in Bookforum, The Forward, Harper's and other publications. He lives in New York City.
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