Search results for joshua cohen.

Joshua Cohen’s Four New Messages

More info here. The book is good, very very good. Buy it.

I Like __ A Lot / 16 Comments
July 15th, 2012 / 2:42 pm

[LMC}: A Way to Feel About Joshua Cohen’s Writing (You Can’t)

I read the massive whole of Joshua Cohen’s WITZ thinking, “I can’t finish this” and I did and it didn’t finish me, though I thought it might and I came out of it with some collateral damage. A book can’t finish you.  The intention of WITZ was an end to Jewish kitsch, and you can’t know if that end was achieved, though Mr. Cohen flattened every stereotype with his hammer prose until all the Catskills punch lines were burned away at the end of that tortuous final passage, issuing to the air like crematory smoke and now, you can’t make those jokes anymore. So maybe he did it. Phillip Roth, king of Jewish kitsch, writes about polio and geezer sex fantasies now. Who knows what Woody Allen is up to.

I read a paragraph of his in the Paris Review, a lyrical wonder about German art students on bicycles and thought and still think, “You can’t write a better paragraph than that,” and so far, nobody has.


Literary Magazine Club / 26 Comments
November 29th, 2011 / 1:00 pm

Let’s all Wish Joshua Cohen an 800-page 30th Birthday

Today’s the day for Joshua Cohen, frequent target of this blog’s affection and voice of his generation for all those whom Tao Lin is not already providing a voice. So, how are you going to celebrate thirty years of the Tribe of One? As always, this blog recommends that you mark the existence of writers whose existence you are glad for by buying their books.

Witz is 20% off if you buy direct from Dalkey Archive. (Read Drew Toal’s Time Out New York review, and a snippet from Blake Butler’s in The Believer). A Heaven of Others is available new, used and Kindled at Amazon. You can get Witz there too, obviously, so if you want both you can probably score free shipping. And once the shipping’s free, why not pump those savings into Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto? The trifecta is very much in the spirit of thirtytude. Here’s me and Kyle Minor in conversation re A Heaven of Others at The Rumpus. Here’s Cohen himself answering Stray Questions at the Paper Cuts blog. Oh, and don’t miss Christian Lorentzen’s profile in the New York Observer.

From Yuri, Stoya, and all of us at HTMLGiant–Happy Birthday!

Author Spotlight / 16 Comments
September 6th, 2010 / 11:30 am

My Mother is the Father of the List: An Interview with Joshua Cohen

This month saw the release of Joshua Cohen‘s latest novel Witz, an 824 page monster of language from Dalkey Archive. The book focuses on the occasion of the plague-death of all the world’s Jews, save one, Benjamin Israelien, who in his newfound cultural superstardom becomes an object of replication, then becomes the hunted. Beyond the plot, Witz is enormously powerful for its invention, its sound, its complex rhythms. Each paragraph and sentence alone is an orchestral thing, which in the larger context, and in the locomotion of the brutal, beautiful and often hilarious plot’s rising, becomes easily one of the more courageous and stunning outfits in the last at least dozen years of publishing.

Last week or so I spent a few days emailing back and forth with Joshua about the book, his process and influences, faith, language, and the like.


Uncategorized / 25 Comments
May 24th, 2010 / 11:33 am

Joshua Cohen + The Cupboard = Must Have

Bridge & Tunnel (& Tunnel & Bridge)
by Joshua Cohen
66 pages. Tape-bound
$5.00 (Just released — order here!!!)

A man performs the role of the Sun in a bit of modern choregraphy, and a young ballerina ruins a dinner party with one violent sneeze. A painter paints paintings of walls and hires a painter to paint onto a wall. Some lifestories get rejected. Some stalkers get stalked. Here, for you: twelve stories, to be read as they were written—on the bridge, in the tunnel, in the bus, on the train.

Here’s an excerpt:

from Bridge & Tunnel (& Tunnel & Bridge)

When we stopped saying we were going to move out of the city, we had:

nothing to talk about at parties, nothing to talk about on the train, nothing to talk about to my aunt, nothing to talk about to her parents, nothing to talk about over pizza, nothing to talk about over good but insufferable sushi, nothing to talk about on the corner of Canal Street & Centre, nothing to talk about at jury duty, nothing to talk about in the bathroom at the theater before a movie began. When the bun place closed. The midnight movie theater in Midtown. When there was nothing to do in Midtown. No point to go. When the deli that pastramitized its own meats shut down, too. I really liked that bun place. When we stopped saying we were going to move out of the city, we became more bearable (we had to be). But, speaking just for me, more depressed.

Presses / 12 Comments
February 23rd, 2010 / 11:39 pm

Joshua Cohen on Jakov Lind at Open Letter jumped right off the e-page at me as one of those things that readers of this site would/will LOVE if/when they found/find out about it.

The great Joshua Cohen wrote an introduction to Lind’s Landscape in Concrete, which Open Letter Books re-published last year. On the occasion of the third anniversary of Lind’s passing, also, OLB’s even more recent (ie this January) reissue of Lind’s Ergo, they have made JC’s introduction to Landscape available online. Here is paragraph one.

“Jakov Lind” was a pseudonym for a man without a name. According to the rolls of a host of long-since defunct regimes, “Lind” was once known as Jakov Chaklan, Palestinian Jew (this was back when you could be one of those), and before that he was Jan Gerrit Overbeek, Dutch bargehand, which was the Nazi-era identity of Heinz Landwirth, Viennese. The author of Landscape in Concrete—and also of the stories of Soul of Wood, the novel Ergo, two other novels, another collection of stories, an Israeli travelogue, three memoirs, numerous stage and radio plays, and occasional poetry—might have been all of these people, and he might have been none. This is not meant “deconstructively,” however, or in a spirit of relativism. What’s being asserted here, at the beginning, is trauma. Is not knowing what to call one’s self. Is not having a private name for one’s self.

Now that you’re interested, go read the rest.

Author Spotlight / 10 Comments
February 16th, 2010 / 5:05 pm

What’s New, Joshua Cohen?


Well, since you asked. There’s new fiction (“Mark the Sun”) at The Brooklyn Rail plus a, uh, “non”fiction piece at n+1: “Famous Infamous Jews.”

Author Spotlight & Web Hype / 6 Comments
October 13th, 2009 / 8:57 am

Giant Talks: Joshua Cohen interviewed by Lily Hoang

joshuacohen011808I first came across Joshua Cohen’s work a couple years ago at AWP. I walked by the Starcherone Books table and asked editor Ted Pelton which book he would recommend. He handed me a bunch, and luckily, among those was Cohen’s A Heaven of Others. What struck me then (and continues to strike me every time I read his work) is what an incredible badass he is. For one, he’s an amazing writer. His words are quite literally delicious. But beyond that, he’s the most prolific writer I know (and I know some crazy prolific writers!). Still shy of thirty, he’s got four books in print, one on the way from Dalkey Archive, and tons more sitting either on a physical or virtual shelf. Cohen is a powerhouse, but don’t take my word for it. Go buy one of his books. You won’t regret it.

— Lily Hoang

LH: Something that really strikes in about your writing is the very distinctive voice your characters have. In A Heaven of Others (from here on out known as Heaven), the narrator has an extremely urgent voice, one that compelled me to read faster & faster, until I was practically skimming. (Then of course, I had go back and read the whole thing over again to really savor the language!) Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto (known as Cadenza), however, has a much more patient narrative voice. Can you tell me more about the development of these narrators in particular? Please feel free to talk about your other works as well.

JC: The voices of both my novels are fictions within fictions, and, as that, they’re opposites: The voice of A Heaven of Others is that of 10-year-old Jonathan Schwarzstein of Tchernichovsky Street, Jerusalem. The voice of Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto is that of Laster, an octogenarian, perhaps nonagenarian, concert violinist from eastern Austro-Hungary. Again, both are fictions, meaning both are ultimately Me. I think what I’ve done in all my books so far comes, primarily, from speech rhythm. The rhythm of how I want to speak. How I speak to myself. As for echoes, A Heaven of Others derives from poetry, especially 20th century Hebrew poetry (Dan Pagis), and German-Jewish poetry (Paul Celan), while Cadenza comes from comedy, and despite its typographical trickery owes more to the history of the novel, and much, specifically, to Saul Bellow.


Author Spotlight / 7 Comments
January 16th, 2009 / 1:37 pm

“Slush” by Joshua Cohen

Not sure if anybody’s noticed, but I’m a bit of a creature of habit. I like getting turned onto new stuff, sure, but once I’ve found something I like I tend to stick by it like a truly neurotic compulsive or perhaps like a faithful hound. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was very happy to learn that Joshua Cohen, whose multi-part Nextbook essay about Kafka’s office writing I covered here, has a new piece of short fiction up at The Fanzine, which is a very cool site and probably not as widely known as it ought to be. So do yourself two favors: first, check out Cohen’s story, “Slush,” and second, start checking on Fanzine more often than you’ve been.  (if you want to do yourself a third favor, pink up a copy of The Weaklings, Dennis Cooper’s most recent collection of poems, which Fanzine published in a special illustrated limited edition of unlimited awesomeness.) Here’s the beginning of “Slush.”


Dear Aaron Priestly,

Thank you for letting us take a read on your manuscript. STORY OF MY LIFE was bold, and compelling, but ultimately I was not convinced that I was the right person to represent it. I just did not find this a must read. It did not click, I regret to inform. Nor did it hold ME. I find your premise lacking, quite. Good luck elsewhere (*I can no longer accept queries from writers who have not been previously published or who have not been referred to me by a colleague*)
    Please accept my very best wishes for the success of STORY OF YOUR LIFE. Though I did not fall in love with your story enough to continue reading it, I pass. We must pass. Obviously not for me, obviously. He, she, it, passes.

Author Spotlight & Excerpts / 1 Comment
January 12th, 2009 / 5:12 pm

checking back in with Joshua Cohen and Kafka’s Office Writings

I’m sure you’ve all been keeping up this week with’s five part series on Kafka’s Office Writings, which I first blogged about on Monday. But in case you haven’t, this is a good time to look over what you’ve missed so you can be all caught up for the big (?) finale tomorrow. The series, as I’ve mentioned now several times, is authored by Joshua Cohen, quite possibly the youngest working critic to be described non-ironically as “venerable,” assuming he has ever actually been called that before, which, if he hasn’t–well he has now.

(clicking anywhere on the text of a given day takes you to that day on Nextbook)

Today (day 4) we’re learning about Kafka and Nazis:        >>It has become a commonplace to say that Kafka’s work prefigured, in image, or predicted, in word, the horrors of Nazism. That argument is most often advanced by a litany of external congruencies between Kafka’s fictional world and the Third Reich: bureaucracy (though the Nazis were always more efficient than the authorial imagination), the infringement of technology on daily life, random violence, unappealable official destinies, fates based on birth, etc. Kafka’s intuition of Nazism was far more personal, however, far more inwardly directed. It can be found in his characters’ desires to join something, to become part of something, whether a style or form of being, or even a Volk (which, in Kafka’s case, would have, perversely, been Judaism).<<


Yesterday, we learned about how Kafka’s work directly inspired his art:          >>While no intro1duction of “cylindrical shafts” could overturn such a metaphysical damnation, there is no doubt that the image of a body inscribed by technology springs from Kafka’s arbitrating experience with traumatized workers.<<


On day 2, we learned about the history of office life in Europe:           >>[Kafka’s] origins lie before industry certainly, before widespread centralization. He began, in fact, when people stopped working for themselves and started working for others; when individual or familial subsistence gave way to earning a living. Work, in the 19th century, became largely an indoor activity, making daily labor—not in the fields and farmlands, but behind four walls in a plant—seem contained, a place where behavior could be scrutinized, and surveilled.<<


And back on day 1 we got an overview of Kafka, and of what the rest of the week was going to be like:     >>Franz Kafka wrote as insurance against suffering the fates of his characters. It was as if every hour he spent writing, by candlelight and, later, by electric light, was an installment paid against darkness. He knew that with a stroke of the pen he could conceivably, at any time, have restored to Joseph K. his easy life before The Trial, and obtained for land surveyor K. a better position with a gentler Castle. But this is what makes Kafka the great writer of what has been called Modernity: That he stayed true to his fictions, and retained their tragedy.<<


After you’ve had your fill of nonfiction, consider perhaps some of his other literature. Cohen is the author of five fine books out from presses that Giant readers and contributors alike have deep affection for: A Heaven of Others (Starcherone, 2008), Two Tribal Stories (Small Anchor, 2007), Aleph-Bet: An Alphabet for the Perplexed (Six Gallery, 2007), Cadenza for the Schneiderman Violin Concerto (Fugue State, 2007), The Quorum (Twisted Spoon, 2005).  A new novel, Graven Imaginings, is forthcoming from Dalkey Archive.  Better get on over to his website and see what the score is.

Author Spotlight / 8 Comments
December 4th, 2008 / 1:51 pm