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.
"Joshua Cohen has created a visionary novel that is terrifying and heartbreaking and humbling in its luminous brilliance. In my view, it firmly places the author on the same level as Kafka." — Michael Disend, author of
"The idea that there are multiple heavens, right ones and wrong ones, white ones and black ones, is pushed to its fantastical limits by Brooklyn writer Joshua Cohen in his dream-world novel of the afterlife. . is a challenging but rewarding read on thematic and formal levels." —
"A breathless flight of controlled delirium, an exquisitely blasphemous tour of an afterlife where earth's dominion, in all its terror and glory, trumps the miraculous and overturns the world to come. . It's a brave book that should earn its young author the reader's profound and enduring admiration." — Steve Stern, author of
When a ten-year-old Jewish boy is exploded on a Jerusalem street by a ten-year-old Palestinian boy, he wakes up in a heaven no one in his tradition prepared him for, a heaven of others. Joshua Cohen's novel stands at the crossroads of a conflicted city and wordplay that both celebrates and dismantles tradition.
On Christmas Eve 1999, all the Jews in the world die in a strange, millennial plague, with the exception of the firstborn males, who are soon adopted by a cabal of powerful people in the American government. By the following Passover, however, only one is still alive: Benjamin Israelien; a kindly, innocent, ignorant man-child. As he finds himself transformed into an international superstar, Jewishness becomes all the rage: matzo-ball soup is in every bowl, sidelocks are hip; and the only truly Jewish Jew left is increasingly stigmatized for not being religious. Since his very existence exposes the illegitimacy of the newly converted, Israelien becomes the object of a worldwide hunt. .
Meanwhile, in the not-too-distant future of our own, “real” world, another last Jew — the last living Holocaust survivor — sits alone in a snowbound Manhattan, providing a final melancholy witness to his experiences in the form of the punch lines to half-remembered jokes.
The enigmatic billionaire founder of Tetration, the world’s most powerful tech company, hires a failed novelist, Josh Cohen, to ghostwrite his memoirs. This tech mogul, known as Principal, brings Josh behind the digital veil, tracing the rise of Tetration, which started in the earliest days of the Internet by revolutionizing the search engine before venturing into smartphones, computers, and the surveillance of American citizens. Principal takes Josh on a mind-bending world tour from Palo Alto to Dubai and beyond, initiating him into the secret pretext of the autobiography project and the life-or-death stakes that surround its publication.
Insider tech exposé, leaked memoir-in-progress, international thriller, family drama, sex comedy, and biblical allegory, renders the full range of modern experience both online and off. Embodying the Internet in its language, it finds the humanity underlying the virtual.