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Joshua Cohen (WS 2017/18)

Joshua Cohen

Joshua Cohen
Bildquelle: Marion Ettlinger

Joshua Cohen (New York) ist der 38. Samuel Fischer Gastprofessor für Literatur im WS 2017/18


"WIKI: What I know Is. The Role of knowledge in the Novel.
am Mittwoch, 25. Oktober 2017, 18hc.t. in Raum KL 32/123
Begrüßung: Dr. Anne Enderwitz

Hauptseminar (LV 16471), "Versions" > ab 18. Okt. 2017, mittwochs 14-16h in JK 31/239

Joshua Cohen is an American novelist. In 2017 he was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists.
He was born in 1980 in New Jersey and studied composition at the Manhattan School of Music. Author of five novels, four collections of short stories and one work of non-fiction, he is also well-known as a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine, for the New York Times, the Jewish Daily Forward and the London Review of Books among others.


  •  Short Histories of Attention: Selected Nonfiction, 2000-2018 (forthcoming Random House, USA); nonfiction, 2018.
  • Moving Kings (Random House, USA; Fitzcarraldo Editions, UK; forthcoming in German from Schoeffling Verlag, also in French, Spanish, Italian); novel, 2017.
  • Book of Numbers (Random House, USA; Seeker & Warburg, UK; forthcoming in German from Schoeffling Verlag, also in French, Italian); novel, 2015.
  • Attention! a (short) history (Notting Hill Editions, UK); nonfiction, 2013.
  • Four New Messages (Graywolf Press, USA; published in German by Schoeffling Verlag; forthcoming in French, Italian); fiction collection, 2012.
  • Witz (Dalkey Archive Press, USA; forthcoming in German from Schoeffling Verlag); novel, 2010.
  • A Heaven of Others (Dzanc Books, USA; forthcoming in German from Schoeffling Verlag); novel, 2008.
  • Aleph-Bet: An Alphabet for the Perplexed (Six Galley, USA); nonfiction, 2007.
  • Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto (Fugue State Press, USA; published in German by Schoeffling Verlag); novel, 2006.
  • The Quorum (Twisted Spoon Press, UK); fiction collection, 2005.

 Periodical publications:

 The Believer, Bookforum, Bomb, Denver Quarterly, Esquire Magazine, Forward, Granta Magazine, Guardian, Guernica, Harper’s Magazine, London Review of Books, N+1, New Haven Review, New Republic, New Yorker, New York Magazine, New York Observer, New York Times, New York Times Book Review, Paris Review, Tablet Magazine, Time Out New York, Triple Canopy, Village Voice, White Review.

Introductions written:

rerelease of Jakov Lind’s Landscape in Concrete (Open Letter, 2009); first publication of Charles Newman’s In Partial Disgrace (Dalkey Archive Press, 2013); rerelease of JG Ballard’s Day of Creation (Fourth Estate, UK, 2014); rerelease of Bohumil Hrabal’s Little Town Where Time Stood Still (New York Review of Books, 2016); Georges Perec’s W, or A Memory of Childhood (David Godine, forthcoming 2018).


Awards, distinctions:

 Named one of Granta Magazine’s Best of Young American Novelists, 2017; Matanel Prize for Jewish Literature, 2013; Pushcart Prize, 2012; Book of Numbers named best book of 2015 by Wall Street Journal, NPR, and New York Magazine; Four New Messages named best book of 2012 by New Yorker; Witz named best book of 2010 by the Village Voice.



 “New Books” columnist, Harper’s Magazine, 2012-2014; contributing editor, Harper’s Magazine, since 2012; contributing editor, Tablet Magazine, since 2010; editor, Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 2011 issue On Failure; staff reviewer, Tablet Magazine, 2009; staff book critic, The Forward, 2007-2009.



 Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, Fall 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016; Adjunct Professor at New School for Social Research, Spring 2013; Writer in Residence, University of Kansas, Spring 2011; guest lecturer at Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies, Columbia University, Spring 2010.


Review extracts (USA):

  • “Alive with talk and dense with data, Book of Numbers reads as if Philip Roth’s work were fired into David Foster Wallace’s inside the Hadron particle collider. . . . more impressive than all but a few novels published so far this decade. Mr. Cohen, all of 34, emerges as a major American writer. …  blends slashing comedy with a brooding awareness of family, of the Old World, of prior claims on his soul…. Cohen is blazingly learned; his mind seems to have a dozen tabs open at any one time. He is good on topics as varied as poker, entropy, bespoke cocktails and art. He is as incapable of writing a boring sentence as Dean Moriarty, in On the Road, is incapable of yawning or saying a commonplace thing.  . . . Cohen has enormous gifts, almost terrifying ones. . . . His magic is serious.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times
  • “Unbridled …  epic .. . the latest and perhaps most ambitious entry into a growing literary subgenre that some book critics have labeled The Great American Internet NovelBook of Numbers also shares some literary DNA with classic stories by Poe, Nabokov and Dostoyevsky about doppelgängers and doubles, a theme that Mr. Cohen felt was ripe for reworking.”— New York Times
  •  “Like Pynchon's Bleeding Edge and Eggers's The Circle, Cohen's latest is an ambitious and inspired attempt at the Great American Internet Novel.”--Publishers Weekly, starred
  • “It's comparable on both counts to William Gaddis' comic dissection of postwar finance in JR. Like Gaddis.” –Kirkus Reviews, starred
  • “Brace Yourself. Drawing comparisons to the work of the late David Foster Wallace, Cohen’s immense, 592-page novel follows a mysterious tech billionaire called Principal who embarks on a globe-spanning journey to discover the humanity within the digital fizz of the Internet age.”—Entertainment Weekly
  • “a smart thriller to kick off the season . . . inspiring in a way that requires readers to pay attention not just to the words but the book as a form.”—Vanity Fair
  • “[A] monstrous talent and restive, roiling intellect.….Other recent literary novels have treated the dot-com-mania reboot, its flagship companies, and their ‘disruptive’ technologies—Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, Dave Eggers’s The Circle—but Cohen’s is the best.”--Bookforum
  • [A] public epic of spectacular success…. Joshua Cohen Is the Great American Novelist.”—Tablet
  • “Inevitably compared to Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, Cohen’s Internet novel is more like Joseph O’Neil’s The Dog mixed with Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island — only it’s better than all of these novels.”—Flavorwire
  • “[F]requently hilarious high satire of our digital world. . . . . this is a stranger, more layered critique than, say, Dave Eggers’s The Circle — a book after William Gaddis’s heart that will be around well after most summer reads have been recycled (or deleted).”—New York Magazine
  • “The next candidate for the great American novel. . . . David Foster Wallace-level audacious. A biblical allegory-cum-21st century epic.”--Details Magazine“Think David Foster Wallace meets David Mitchell meets the search history that you just cleared. Beast. I didn't understand everything in the book–which might be the point?–but I sure as hell do admire it.”-- Esquire 
  • “Cohen is whip-smart and not afraid to show it, so reading his work is like a test to prove if you have A) the vocabulary to hang with him, B) the cultural and historical cachet for his references, and C) the endurance to digest thick stories built with little breathing room. . . .  So take Book of Numbers like a dare. It’s a sprawling novel with roots in cultural criticism and a herculean vocab, but the incentive for those who endure is a compelling story of authorship and privacy, some good bouts of humor, and the maneuvers of a savvy writer unafraid to interweave and interpose, to flirt with accessibility while riding into the sink.”--The Rumpus
  • “Deeply rewarding.”—Wall Street Journal
  • “There is indeed something remarkable about Mr. Cohen’s prose….deliriously entertaining.”—The Economist
  • Book of Numbers is a thorny masterpiece.”—Vulture
  • “The Foster Wallace of Red Hook… a fascinating look at the dark heart of the Web…. a page turner about life under the veil of digital surveillance.”—Rolling Stone
  • “In Cohen’s ambitious, brilliantly demanding tale, a failed novelist becomes an Internet billionaire’s ghostwriter”—New York Times Book Review
  • “[A] brilliant book.”– Boston Globe
  • “This breakout novel from a young author follows a ghostwriter who pulls back the veil of the tech world in search of the meaning of life in the Internet era. At 592 pages, it’s a commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Bloomberg Business
  • “Cohen fashions some beautiful poetry out of tech-soused outpourings.” – Financial Times
  • “Book of Numbers brilliantly and rigorously examines a question that confronts literature today: What does the explosion of information from the internet mean for the future of storytelling?” —Buzzfeed
  •  “[R]emarkable . . . dazzling . . .  what Cohen has constructed is an impassioned report on the Miltonic battle between our human souls and the satanic seductions of the Internet….  Cohen’s literary gifts—among them, his quick, tough-minded intelligence, his humor, his nervy refusal to be ingratiating, and his willingness to risk irritating his readers—suggest that something is possible, that something still might be done to safeguard whatever it is that makes us human.”—Francine Prose, New York Review of Books
  • "A revelation. . . . Intelligent, lyrical, prosaic, theoretical, pragmatic, funny, serious. [Cohen's] best prose does everything at once."—The New Yorker, James Wood's Books of the Year
  • “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


  • This anarchic energy recalls Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace, but what really distinguishes Witz is its language and Cohen’s vigorous assault on the sentence as a unit of simple communication....a brave and artful attempt to explore and explode the limits of the sentence. —Stephen J. Burn, The New York Times Book Review
  • “[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
  • “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.”—The New York Observer
  •  “What dazzles here is a Pynchonesque verbal dexterity, the sonic effect of exotic vocabulary, terraced sentences, robust puns and metaphors, and edgy, Tarantino-like dialogue.”—Review of Contemporary Fiction
  •  “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. . . . [Cohen has] crafted a series of innovative literary romps.”—Publishers Weekly
  •  “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.”—The Boston Globe
  •  “Cohen flits ambidextrously between hip chat-room speak and drug-addled dialogue to create both a delicious black comedy and an updated Kafkaesque nightmare. . . soulful meditations on serious topics. "Literature isn't built merely of words," we learn at one juncture, and Cohen delivers far more in each tale. But ultimately it is the words that carry them, and in fact encapsulate them, and which bowl us over, every street-savvy, razor-sharp line.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
  • "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, author of The Ask
  • “Cohen packs a lot of ideas and syntactical somersaults into a slim book. . . . It’s a pleasure to witness him test the limits of narrative.”—Kirkus Reviews
  • “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
  • “Joshua Cohen is not only a gifted novelist but also an astute critic with an immense knowledge of world literature. These thought-provoking stories reflect his deep awareness of the mechanisms of fiction as well as his thorough engagement with the textures of contemporary life.”—Jewish Book World
  • “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
  • Four New Messages is the best rendering to-date of Life With The Internet.”—Ploughshares 
  • Winner of a Pushcart Prize for "Emission"
  •  “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
  •  “Upcoming writer Cohen (Witz) offers four confident, rich, new delights in this collection. . . . The keenness of Cohen’s prose keeps it from purpling, and the meaner scenes are leavened with a generous pathos. . . . A gift in this uncertain 21st century; highly, highly recommended for all readers of contemporary fiction.”—Library Journal (starred review)
  • "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
  • "Settling into [the stories] is something to be relished. His sentences, spare of commas and loaded with improvised structure and vocabulary, have a frenetic yet hypnotic quality. Through layers of narrative and mimicry of various modes of modern communication, Cohen conveys the stress of a society in which one's reputation can rest in the hands of anyone with access to a computer. . . . In his literary awareness of narratives, genres, and styles, Cohen's range shines through."—Zyzzyva
  • "[A] young author of outlandishly prodigal talents."Andrew Ervin, Tin House
  • "Joshua Cohen is one of the most talented writers walking around."—ManArchy Magazine
  • "Cohen is a gifted craftsman of language and Four New Messages is an impressive display."—The Coffin Factory
  • "The transition from Witz to the stories in this collection took me by surprise and had to be read a second time."—Vol. 1 Brooklyn
  • "There is no doubt that Joshua Cohen has something to say and the talent and skills with which to say it."—Switchback
  • "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"
  • "[Four New Messages is] like a cluster of asteroids impacting the heartland: a big dust cloud and fossils ensue."—Christian Lorentzen, The Millions
  • [N]ow that so much Jewish literature has been written and rewritten again in English, now that we have so many authors and classics, it is all the more rare and inspiring that Cohen, scandalously overlooked in America, especially by the Jewish literary community, continues to delve deeper and further with each book into an inherited terrain while making of that holy ground these beautifully uncharted territories with their own maps and legends.—New Haven Review
  • A reminder of the serious import of the literary novel, the novel as linguistic artifact.—TLS
  • [Cohen] reminds us what literature is.—The Forward
  • Cohen packs whole histories and destructions, maps and traditions, into single sentences. He employs lists, codes, and invented syntax with the sure hand of a visionary, his prowess and passion further emboldened by a boundless sense of scope.—The Believer
  • The kind of ambitious, intelligent novel of ideas that will demand your full attention for 824 pages and repay you by rewiring your cerebral cortex in a fundamental way.—The Stranger
  • The great lyrical sweeps of Cohen’s writing must be applauded.—Library Journal
  • Entertaining, adventurous and delightfully absurd.—Time Out New York