Four New Messages
Four New Messages
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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.
though he put out a hand and caught her before she fell, which must’ve been his attraction to her, which must’ve been his, he knew the word from the only other language he knew besides this minimal language and Albanian, tendresse (there was so much his brother didn’t know that came to light in court: he’d labored a full year in Marseille), with his other hand he made a fist and punched her, driving his knucks into her skull cradled by his hand. From the floor the ringing continued. A CCTV
missed it or would forget that he hadn’t with the sunglasses over twelve stitches smile she gave as she opened the door and got in, but as soon as she was seated and had shut the door she knew that he’d seen it because he leaned over the stickshift to kiss her, which is something he never did, that not being the kind of thing this character would do, Why not? Dad asked, what’s he scared of? But this kiss—“this pinch of lips” “this stitch of kiss”—was only a diversion, I said, because with one
whodunit juvenilia). B.C.D. (another schoolmate hack, she wouldn’t dryhump) who profiles for a weekly more read for its less logorrheic cartoons. H. who wrote her dissertation on Nabokov in the voice of Nabokov: fractious, lilting, Germanophonic, Francophonic, superiorly unsuburban, the prize for which is tenure. Y. who doesn’t know if the plot he’s “fleshing,” the flesh he’s “developing”—his fiancée has learned to cook from the appropriate TV—wants to be a novel or screenplay. Fear not libel or
best position to have re: Iran—preemptive strikes or sanctions inevitably targeting women and children? What’s the best sexual position for virginity loss—for a man, for a woman, for a child? Is there a future for campaign finance reform after the veritable abortion of Citizens United v. FEC? If you could repeal any amendment to the Constitution, which (no one allowed anymore to pick the first ten, whichever amendment repealed Prohibition, or the thirteenth, fourteenth, or fifteenth)? If you were
the ground—but there were no rocks and there was a redundance of panes. He threw the paper and away it flew. The swingset had no swings. The slide was a ladder up. The weather was as oppressively changeless as the consecution of the development’s paths. The door clicked and out staggered a group of intimidating children, overgrown children. Their youths were stuffed like sausages into the casings of overalls, in the fashion of gastarbeiters, their faces were slabs of borodinbread swabbed with