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Four New Messages Paperback – August 7, 2012
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“Cohen, a key member of the United States' under-40 writers' club (along with Nell Freudenberger and Jonathan Safran Foer), is a rare talent who makes highbrow writing fun and accessible.” ―Marie Claire
“Powerfully strange. . . . Mr. Cohen's stories are about a lot of things: sex, family, disappointment, literary frustration. . . . But in his new collection, Four New Messages, he nestles these subjects inside a more expansive obsession: how the series of tubes we call the Web has recast, often in sick ways, his contemporaries' sense of who and where and why they are. . . . [T]o sum this up in Web terms, he'll make you want to be an angel investor in his stuff. What's a book but a public offering? You'll want to be in on the ground floor.” ―Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“[Cohen has] manifold talents at digging under and around absurdity. . . . Language--not elision--is the primary material of Cohen's oeuvre, and his method of negotiating his way toward meaning is like powering straight through a thick wall of words. . . . The reward is an off-kilter precision, one that feels both untainted and unique.” ―Rachel Kushner, The New York Times Book Review
“Smart and well conceived.” ―The Nation
“All these stories are replete with clever turns of phrase and memorable lines. . . . Like [David Foster] Wallace, Cohen is clearly concerned with the depersonalizing effects of technology, broken people doing depraved things, and how the two intersect in tragic (and, sometimes, hilarious) ways. The franticness with which he writes about these themes is, at times, Wallace-esque--sentences screaming across the page turbulently, always seemingly one wrong turn from flying apart altogether.” ―Boston Globe
“Another exhilarating spectacle from a virtuosic wordsmith.” ―Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“The four novellas included are certainly new--I've never read anything remotely like them--and they're certainly messages, urgent ones addressed to the porn-numb but as yet un-lobotomized members of the iGeneration. Cohen calls out in pimped-out prose that shimmies like a lowride Cutlass. I would advise you all to listen.” ―Adam Wilson, Salon, "Salon's Ultimate Book Guide"
“In Mr. Cohen's hands, a meme is a matter of life and death, because he goes from the reality we all know--the link, the click--to the one we tend to forget: the human. . . . Mr. Cohen is ambitious. He is mapping terra incognita.” ―New York Observer
“Immoderately brilliant. . . . Throughout, Cohen uses his gifts extravagantly, but there are no lazy formulations, no banal phrases that he doesn't either parody or somehow subvert, and by so doing create a new angle of perception that demands close rereading. . . . Four New Messages might seem an ambitious title in an era when true literary innovation is rare, but Joshua Cohen exceeds expectations in ways that are gratifying in the present and promising for the future.” ―Bookforum
“There is ample evidence that Joshua Cohen is one of the greatest literary minds of his generation. . . . If anything is finally going to get people to admit that he's the new Thomas Pynchon (sans the whole recluse thing) the Graywolf Press published book will be it.” ―Flavorpill
“Cohen's comically dense ruminations don't so much as come to a boil as spill over with tales of pornography, hyperviolent video games, consumerism, and depression.” ―Interview
“Joshua Cohen has more than four new messages to deliver in this volatile book, all quite urgent. These stories seize us with their brash humor and intellectual reach. But are they startling warning flares or diabolical soul traps? Read them and weep, roar, shudder.” ―Sam Lipsyte
Top Customer Reviews
However, it's also evident that, between his magazine column requiring keeping up on the latest writing, his prolific output of books, his obvious depth of literary knowledge, and success so young, that he hasn't had a lot of time to experience life without a computer or book in front of him.
I completely understand why he is the toast of the literati but writers who write about writing just aren't my cup of tea. He lives and breathes in the literary world but I prefer my creative guides to demonstrate more grasp of the complexities and nuances of the real world.
"Take a pen, write this on a paper scrap, then when you’re near a computer, search:
Alternately, you could just keep clicking your finger on that address until this very page wears out—until you've wiped the ink away and accessed nothing."
Much of this collection, like the present day, revolves around the realm of the online, and comes out on the other end having successfully reflected, refracted, re- and de-contextualized, poked, prodded, danced with and defenestrated this increasingly pervasive tool that—unlike any other tool to date, really—contains immense numerations of representational worlds upon (and within) worlds.
Now, much ink and pixel has been spilt on the subject of the Internet Age, in both fiction and non, and—to further illustrate the proliferation of shortened attention spans and a quicker and quicker inclination towards a dismissive "X is so yesterday’s trend"ness—it's tempting to issue a cynical yawn and eye roll and apply a series of fierce clasps of sarcasm-pinchers (i.e. "scare quotes") and remark something like 'Yet another book/article/etc that [cue bored-sarcastic voice] "Explores the all-pervasiveness of the internet and social media and how it’s shaped blablabla and changed our perceptions of blablabla and asks us to consider blablabla while also leaving room for blablabla." Yawn. Bla. Pssh. Etc.Read more ›
He takes interesting stories and characters and tucks them behind a screen. On that screen he is projecting himself masturbating with and masticating words. Amid the shadows cast by his characters, he builds idle verbal frictions leading to some flurry/eruption. Sort of pointless. Sort of disgusting. At the same time, Cohen is clearly enjoying himself. His characters still struggle to make themselves known in the midst of the distraction, his plot coaxes you forward. I enjoyed the first two stories much more than the second two.
Overall I wanted to rate the collection a two, but I am just too heistant to not value the degree of pleasure Cohen is having.
Like porn, Cohen (on the screen/page) is having the pleasure and we are watching and left to figure out for ourselves how disgusted to be.
Noted as one of the rising writing stars under forty, this is Cohen's sixth book. In Four New Messages he has distinct stories that have a common underlining thing of transitioning from what is considered the norm.
The four are "Emissions" where a drug leader is exposed virtually by a blog gone viral. The second is "McDonalds" whereas a frustrated pharmaceutical copywriter deals with an internal struggle. Then the "College Borough" a New York novelist goes on a mid-west odyssey seeking to build replicas of the Flatiron Building. My favorite and most titillating is "Sent" where a journalist discovered a village that shelters all the women who've appeared in his favorite internet porn.
The book starts can be a bumpy ride but makes for an interesting fast pace read. It is truly a work made for our short attention span world.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The text is written in a stream of consciousness style and worst-of-the-Internet jargon that requires too much of an effort to follow.Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
Cohen is a babbler. Like James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, et al., his sentences are long, winding exercises in syntactic hysterics. Read morePublished on May 6, 2014 by jafrank
Joshua Cohen writes many great sentences in his book Four New Messages. Some of the phrases he turned made me smile, and others pleaded to be read two or three times, which I was... Read morePublished on September 24, 2013 by Stephen T. Hopkins