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Four New Messages

3.19  ·  Rating details ·  289 Ratings  ·  52 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,
ebook, 208 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Graywolf Press
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Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joshua Nomen-Mutatio by: Tim Horvath
On the very first page of Joshua Cohen’s latest book, a quartet of M to L size stories, he describes a writer's move from New York to Berlin and—in lieu of an exhaustive description of Berlin’s collective attitude towards working—beckons the reader to:

"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 n
Then it covered itself with a shawl, tugged from a puddle in its lap--the fringe of that rug of bearskin, omnivorously soiled, full of thistle.

Joshua Cohen's collection of four longish stories sort of left me baffled. Mr. Wallace is dead and yet some keep praying and practicing as if only by inertia (or habit). Sorry for the parody of Nietzsche's Gay Science, but i was bit confused by this insistence of self-awareness. We see narrative repeatedly derailed by distraction, detail and the knowledg
Dec 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, small-press
We send messages every day. Thoughtlessly, dutifully, compulsively. In 21st-century America, sending messages is how we communicate.

But sometimes “sending a message” has another connotation, whereby the act of doing one thing communicates something else. A politician who opens her campaign in her opponent’s hometown “sends a message” that she’s going to be aggressive. A man who takes his wife to the Italian restaurant where he proposed is declaring more than a desire for meatballs. These message
Jan 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheryl by: James Wood
I was lured to this by James Wood, who included this in the New Yorker top 2012 books.
The first story "Emissions" made me feel old and cranky. Sex, drugs, computer hacking -- sigh. So much energy. But so unpredictable. Great ending.
The second one, "McDonald's" is so intricately metafictional that it became a confusing morass of embryonic concepts. Some bits here and there are terrific, but overall, I want to shake him: "Just say it!"
"The Bed", being the first part of "Sent", was wonderful - alm
I couldn't get past the first story. It felt like Cohen was trying too hard to be controversial. He failed at any rate.
Adam Armstrong
Four New Messages are four stories that speak of life revolving around the technological age. People whose lives are altered and dependant on that technology, and who at times fight against it.

In “Emission”, an unintentional slip of the tongue leads to a rumor that finds massive escalation with the aid of the internet. The protagonist Mono, seeking to eliminate his sudden infamy and reclaim his autonomy and anonymous nature, requests the aid of a “Digital Paralegal”, as she calls herself. Howe
Josh Friedlander
Some time has passed since I read this, robbing me of my initial impressions but also causing me to realise what little impression it made on me. Stylistically and thematically, Cohen (a New Books editor at Harper's magazine) attempts to conjure the feel of the Way We Live Now. Each of these four novellas comes with a URL, and the title and content allude to contemporary WWW-related issues (the instantaneity of email, the ubiquity of porn, online shaming). In our high-speed culture, though, tech ...more
Emily Simpson
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the most part, Joshua Cohen’s Four New Messages explores the brutal presentness technology contributes to our overdriven, twentyfirstcenturized modi. Specifically, it deals with gross termination of privacy and the end of an era where innocent embarrassments and personal faux pas could remain privately shamed.

In Cohen’s world, even less than nothing is sacred. The age of the internet, as this collection aggressively insists, is one of blown (no pun intended) cover and ruination from dissolv
Jul 31, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I can't believe I finished this--what a bore.

The first story (hapless drug dealer is screwed by story on Internet) had a good idea as a kernel, but it was way too long and diffuse. The second was also too long, but had a decent ending. The last two were simply terrible.

I read this on the basis of a favorable review from Rachel Kushner, in the NYTimes. Note to self: Her taste is opposite mine. If she dislikes something, I might like it.

I honestly thought she was joking with this line: "In
Travis Fortney
I was mildly disappointed by this book, as well as confused about what all the buzz was about. It's not that I didn't get it, just that there wasn't anything to get.

Still, I reviewed it at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, which you can find here:


How many authors' mere mention in a cover blurb (i.e. this author is like that one) is enough to force you to pick up a book? For me, the list is short, and one name on it is David Foster Wallace.

The Wallace com
John Pappas
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Impressive stories that herald these new times where the virtual world of representation, paranoia, narrowcasting, amplified egotism, anonymity, and psychosexual obsession replaces or corrupts the real. In this lonely interstitial space between the real and virtual, between the private and public, lurks the new media technologies hard at work at refashioning our moral and ethical senses, constructing a new collective sense of identity -- or, a new sense of secret identity, as Cohen details, show ...more
Jul 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ben Marcus fans- the fellow crazies that read the Witz cover to cover
I'm not sure how to rate Cohen on a star scale. He spits some mean sentences- and some serious meta fiction. He kind of reminds me of Michael Jordan, but while he was in highschool. In the sense that he is still perfecting his craft, but there is a noticeable brilliance slowly emerging.
Emission was the most engaging story of the four in a traditional sense and by the last story, which also happens to be the longest, I was in a sense burned out.
Note to self in the future go back and read the la
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hyperstylized and at times maddeningly so, and yet. These stories combine original concepts with a singular style to produce a mostly invigorating experience.
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lapl
The first story was great- an intelligent stream of consciousness mixed with a funny play on words. The other three were a bit too rambling, conceptual and pretentious.
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2012
"The College Borough" and "Emission" are two of the best short works of fiction I've read in a long time.
Ben Bush
Let's meet up and get coffee and talk about this book IRL.
Meera Ulysses
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
vier kurzgeschichten über kaputte menschen in zeiten des internets. in einer ähnlich kaputten sprache, woanders heißt das postmoderne. und wie wallace lässt auch cohen den leser verstört und rätselnd den buchdeckel zuklappen. da geht es nicht nur mir so.

die geschichten sind kleine universen, haben nichts miteinander zu tun, aber die sie bevölkernden gestalten ähneln sich. es sind zweifelnde, irgendwie zerstörte charaktere. einer will einen kompromittierenden blog über sich verschwinden lassen un
This is the second and I am afraid last book I read from Joshua Cohen.
This writer loves to play with words, torture sentences and some of his readers like me. Definitively good ideas, but written in an obscure jargon that makes it very difficult (or my case impossible) to enjoy.
Benjamin Streeter
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first story was the best. Some of the rest of the book was losing me. Too many pyrotechnics. Would read more by this writer.
Feb 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
I was going to say that I didn't love the stories themselves - the four new messages - because their subjects won't remain in my memory. Yet perhaps I (would only) say this because the stories did not have plot-able recountable arcs. Because I will certainly remember Cohen's sentences and that I was made more alert and attentive by reading them.

Some examples: Cohen effortlessly inserts contemporary terms and mindsets into narratives in such a way that they aren't show-offy jargon but seamlessly
Cohen is a babbler. Like James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, et al., his sentences are long, winding exercises in syntactic hysterics. He moves between neurosis, wit, despair and epiphany with the pedal-to-the-floor kind of energy of someone who wants to tell you about everything (in every thematic register) at once. I'm not sure these stories, all of which crack wise in one way or another on our overtly technologized, deeply interneted lives, are really anything more than an excuse to string together ...more
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cohen's electric, relentlessly ebullient phrasal play ranks him among the finest prose-sculptors I can think of writing fiction today.

He seems to take such sheer delight in the messaging itself that the actual semantic substance of each message almost drifts to the margins (and, preemptively: please no objections in the indivisibility of signifier/signified vein -- we'd wade through the familiar jargon-bog before deciding that we basically agree; I just wanted to emphasize what fun it is to sav
Feb 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very mixed emotions.

The author clearly needs/needed to watch more porn. Actual porn. With people. Who had sex. He takes interesting stories and characters and tucks them behind a screen. On that screen he is masturbating and masticating words. 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
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Joshua Cohen is a good writer, but Four New Messages isn't particularly moving or exciting. Sliced into four sections, each story acts like metafiction. Pages are filled with seemingly stream-of-conscious rants about the Internet Age and how it has radically shaped humanity. Perhaps I've read too much nonfiction (and fiction!) on the subject, but these messages are nothing new, as the title suggests. Each story simultaneously feels like an ode to traditional writing while disregarding and shamin ...more
Garrett Peace
I'll admit: I'm impressed by a lot of things here. The energy, the wordplay, the humor, all the commentary Cohen is going for in these stories. But I'm still a bit disappointed; it didn't click with me like I thought it would. Some of the stories (especially the last) dragged for me, and overall it felt a little too...unfocused? We'll go with that, although that's not exactly what I'm trying to say (as if I can ever REALLY communicate how I feel about this stuff). Still, it's worth a read (and d ...more
Edward Rathke
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With Four New Messages [Graywolf Press], Cohen turns his talents towards the realities of living in this internet age, where everyone’s life is catalogued online through YouTube, Facebook, and Google. The language of the four stories that make up Four New Messages is about as simple as Cohen gets, and is much more similar to his Bridge & Tunnel (& Tunnel & Bridge), where he chooses to deal with reality, in all its peculiarity. While the stories are less linguistically complex and dem ...more
May 31, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
joshua cohen attempts to explode the short story structure but does not succeed with the type of explosion he's looking for. these stories (4 of them, longish-short stories, the titular "messages," a title that doubles as an inbox reminder) exist on a sort of shifting sand that never allows you to get comfortable with the narrative. there are moments in each story that are very compelling but cohen's need to perpetually be 'moving on,' sometimes in ways that don't (imho) make much sense at all, ...more
Jeff Umbro
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is hailed as a social commentary on the Internet age, which in a very existential sense it is. However I would be more prone to call this book a collection of three short stories and a novella that symbolize how we express ourselves in the midst of open and aware communications. This alone warrants a read, but throw in Cohen's writing and his experimentation with language and you have a very interesting book indeed.
Apr 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An experiment in representing in fiction experience of being online that, as can be the case with experiments, isn't wholly successful. But still worth reading, simply because Cohen describes life online with none of the glibness, whether positive or negative, that passes for intelligent thought about the Internet. A writer bringing all his intelligence to bear on the interstices of life others are too busy to examine.
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Joshua Aaron Cohen (born September 6, 1980 in New Jersey) is an American novelist and writer of stories.
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“my generation’s screwed—we’re not the immigrant experience, we’re not the assimilation experience—we’re the first nothing generation, we’ve got nothing to write about and no one to read it, everyone too busy getting technologized, too harried with degrees.” 1 likes
“Art that samples other art, quotes that quote other quotes--your writer knows this phenomenon, in jargon 'he's aware', he was raised in a culture of (not more ironic jargon, select only the most appropriate gustatory analogy): regurgitation, a culture of glutting to vomit and glutting again on the vomit until reemesis--chunky cheese mimesis--then licking that puddle again.” 0 likes
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