Joshua Cohen

Portrait Joshua Cohen
© Hartwig Klappert

Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in Atlantic City in the American state of New Jersey and studied at the Manhattan School of Music. In addition to his work as a book reviewer for »Harper’s Magazine«, he also writes reviews for the literary supplement of the »New York Times« and for the British literary magazine, »The London Review of Books«.

In addition to four novels, his literary work, for which he has been compared to authors such as Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace, also includes short stories. In 2005 his first collection of short stories, »The Quorum«, appeared followed by the short story collections, »Aleph-Bet. An Alphabet for the Perplexed« (2007), »Bridge & Tunnel (& Tunnel & Bridge)« (2010) and »Four New Messages« (2012), which was named best book of the year by the »The New Yorker« magazine in 2012. Cohen tracks the force of the Internet’s radical influence on our society but also at a private, often more intimate level, how it has changed who we are and how we see others. One of the stories concerns a drug dealer whose life is thrown out of joint as an Internet blog pillories him, while in another Internet pornography establishes a connection between the lives of Eastern European girls. In a review the »Boston Globe« compared Cohen with David Foster Wallace arguing that both were concerned with showing the dehumanizing impact of the technologies surrounding us, with all the tragic (and comic) consequences. Cohen’s method of reaching the true meaning of things was described by »The New York Times« as hammering through a thick wall of words, with which the writer addresses the overtaking of the real by the virtual with a mixture of prose and poetry, fresh neologism and literary games. In his non-fiction book, »Attention! a (short) history« (2013), the author also deals with our digital society in which the most important resource seems to be attention, which is at the same time scattered and devalued by the variety of the demands placed upon it. In 2010 he published his third novel, »Witz«, an epic tale about the last living Jews, which was influenced by Yiddish idiom and again confronts and transgresses the limits of language. His next novel, »The Book of Numbers«, will appear in 2015.

Joshua Cohen was awarded the Pushcart Prize (2012) and the Matanel Award for Jewish fiction (2013). He lives in Brooklyn, New York.