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.
only attempt at research and his findings disgusted and that was winter, New York City, 2008. A winter in which your writer avoided his parents and slacked on his quotas and for environmentally unsustainable months kept you driving insomniac throughout the Midwest or middling enough environs only because he couldn’t bring himself to write or type out the novenary letters that nominalized the restaurant you and he so desperately had to patronize, RR—with that body in the back, that bloody body in
with a bit to the cuticle fingernail graze of my elbow, a hennaed palm to my shoulder, tender but then she’d think nothing of reaching out with a surprisingly firm grip and turning Veri’s head to direct her attention: there the library, there the center for university life, here the freshman dorms (where you’ll be living next year—what a presumptuous girl) … I told Dem I wasn’t impressed and she shushed me but I could tell from the side of her smile, she agreed. I’m saying the physical plant
was just like staring at the ceiling, when someone tapped out a thick fat line for you with their parents’ Platinum Plus Visa card on the glass slab tiered above the baize bottom of the house’s threequartersize poker table it was, Before you coke was just like staring at the ceiling, then that prefatory endearment was dropped with the tense and it was only, This couch is just like staring at the ceiling, This floor is just like staring at the ceiling, This ceiling’s just like staring at the
bed. When you tell this story to a fellow bedmaker you just say, He made One! What did he do? he made a bed (not with sheets but with wood and nails), what kind of bed? a big wood bed he nailed—nevermind how, you whose beds at home be unmade, nevermade. Nevermind the chop chopping, the lathe hump of knots to flatness and the plane, the planing. Nevermind those nails, which in days of yore my little squirty grandkids you had to make yourself, not buy, you couldn’t buy them. He made the nails from
concrete, what makes concrete stick, what makes it bind, the rest is just sand, water, and air—without these girls, the porn would never adhere, the screens would go blank, the towers would crumble. In winter, on a junket to a smaller burg whose snow and ice kept the populace indoors, “the friend” proposed to meet a girl vanside, parking that bloodbright mobile in the square by the townhall and plague column, by the manger and tree, by the monuments to horsebacked wars saddling generations with