Excerpt provided by Syndetics
<anon I1="BLANK" I2="BLANK">8/27? 28? two days before end of Ramadan If you're reading this on a screen, fuck off. I'll only talk if I'm gripped with both hands. Paper of pulp, covers of board and cloth, the thread from threadstuff or--what are bindings made of? hair and plant fibers, glue from boiled horsehooves? The paperback was compromise enough. And that's what I've become: paper spine, paper limbs, brain of cheapo crumpled paper, the final type that publishers used before surrendering to the touch displays, that bad thin four-times-deinked recycled crap, 100% acidfree postconsumer waste. I have very few books with me here--Hitler's Secretary: A Firsthand Account, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, whatever was on the sales table at Foyles on Charing Cross Road, and in the langues anglais section of the FNAC on the Rue de Rennes--books I'm using as models, paragons of what to avoid. I'm writing a memoir, of course--half bio, half autobio, it feels--I'm writing the memoir of a man not me. It begins in a resort, a suite. I'm holed up here, blackout shades downed, drowned in loud media, all to keep from having to deal with yet another country outside the window. If I'd kept the eyemask and earplugs from the jet, I wouldn't even have to describe this, there's nothing worse than description: hotel room prose. No, characterization is worse. No, dialogue is. Suffice it to say that these pillows are each the size of the bed I used to share in NY. Anyway this isn't quite a hotel. It's a cemetery for people both deceased and on vacation, who still check in daily with work. As for yours truly, I've been sitting with my laptop atop a pillow on my lap to keep those wireless hotspot waveparticles from reaching my genitals and frying my sperm, searching up--with my employer's technology--myself, and Rach. My wife, my ex, my "x2b." \ Living by the check, by the log--living remotely, capitalhopping, skipping borders, jumping timezones, yet always with that equatorial chain of blinking beeping messages to maintain, what Principal calls "the conversation"--it gets lonely. For the both of us. Making tours of the local offices, or just of overpriced museums to live in. Claridge's, Hôtel de Crillon. Meeting with British staff to discuss removing the UK Only option from the homepage. Meeting French staff to discuss the .Fr launch of Autotet. Granting angel audiences to the CEOs of Yalp and Ilinx. Being pitched, but not catching, a new parkour exergame and a betting app for fantasy rugby. This was micromanaging, microminimanaging. Nondelegation, demotion (voluntary), absorption of duties (insourcing), dirtytasking. All of them at once. In the lexicon of the prevailing techsperanto. This was Principal spun like a boson just trying to keep it, keep everything, together. At least until Europe was behind us and we could stay ensuite, he could stay seated, in interviews with me. Between the naps, interviewing for me. You call the person you're writing "the principal" and mine is basically the internet, the web--that's how he's positioned, that's how he's converged: the man who helped to invent the thing, rather the man who helped it to invent us, in the process shredding the hell out of the paper I've dedicated my life to. Though don't for a moment assume he regards it as, what? ironic or wry? that now, at our mutual attainment of 40 (his birthday just behind him, mine just ahead), he's feeling the urge to put his life down in writing, into writing on paper. He has no time for irony or wryness. He has time for only himself. \ cant wait 4 wknd, Rach updates. margaritas tonite #maryslaw ever time i type divorce i type deforce (still trying 2 serve papers) read that my weights the same as hers--feelingood til the reveal: shes 2 inches taller--ewwww!! "She" who was two inches taller was a model, and though Rach's in advertising I never expected her to be just as public, to enjoy such projections. To be sure, she enjoys them anonymously. My last stretch in NY I'd been searching "Rachava Cohen-Binder," finding the purest professionalism--her profile at her agency's site--searching "Rachava Binder," getting inundated with comments she'd left on a piece of mine ("Journalism Criticizing the Web, Popular on the Web," The New York Times). It was only in Palo Alto that I searched "Rachav Binder" and "Rach Binder," got an undousable flame of her defense of an article of mine critical of the Mormon Church's databasing of Holocaust victims in order to speed their posthumous conversions ("Net Costs," The Atlantic), and finally it was either in London or Paris, I forget, because I was trashed, that I, on a trashy whim, searched "Teva Café Detroit MI," but the results suggested I'd meant "Tevazu Café Detroit MI"--cyber chastisement for having incorrectly spelled the place where I'd proposed with ring on bended knee. One site--and one site alone--had made that same spelling mistake, though, and when I clicked through I found others even graver: a-bintel-b was a blog, hosted by a platform developed by my employer, which is more famous for having developed the search engine--the one everyone uses to find everyone else, movie times, how to fix my TV tutorials, is this herpes? how much does Gisele Bündchen weigh? Though her accounts lack facts--and Majuscules, and punctuation--I haven't been able to stop reading, can't stop reminding myself that what I read was written in my, in our, apartment. Between the walls, which have been redone a univeige, a cosmic latte shade--the floors have similarly been buffed of my traces. I wasn't ready to get reacquainted with the old young flirty Rach. Not on this blog, which she began in the summer, just after we severed, and especially not while I was estranged abroad, in London, Paris, Dubai as of this morning--if it's Sunday it must be Dubai--with Principal negotiating the dunespace for a datacenter. Apparently. \ Remember that old joke, let's set it in an airport, at the security checkpoint, when a guard asks to inspect a bag, opens the bag, and removes from it a suspicious book. "What's it about?" he asks. And the passenger answers, "About 500 pages!!!!" Contracted as of two weeks ago, due in four months. Simultaneous hardcover release in six languages, 100,000 announced first printing (US), my name nowhere on it, in a sense. As of now all I have is its title, which is also the name of its author, which is also the name of his ghost. Me, my own. Though my contract with Principal has a confidentiality clause--beyond that, a clause that forbids my mentioning our confidentiality clause, another barring me from disclosing that, and yet another barring me from going online, I assume for life--I can't help myself (Rach and I might still have a thing or two in common): I, Joshua Cohen, am writing the memoir of the Joshua Cohen I'm always mistaken for--the incorrect JC, the error msg J. The man whose business has ruined my business, whose pleasure has ruined my pleasure, whose name has obliviated my own. Disambiguation: Did you mean Joshua Cohen? The genius, googolionaire, Founder and CEO of Tetration.com, as of now--datestamped 8/27, timecoded 22:12 Central European Summer Time--hits #1 through #324 for "Joshua Cohen" on Tetration.com. Or Joshua Cohen? The failed novelist, poet, husband and son, pro journalist, speechwriter and ghostwriter, as of now--datestamped 8/28, timecoded 00:14 Gulf Standard Time--hit #325 "my" highest ranking on Tetration.com. #325 mentions my first book--the book I'm writing this book, my last, to forget. The book that everyone but me already buried. Also I'm trying to earn better money, this time, at the expense of identity. Rach, my support, had been keeping me in both. But it was only after my session with Principal today--two Joshes just joshing around in the Emirates--that I decided to write this. Coming back from Principal's orchidaceous suite to my own chandeliered crèmefest of an accommodation, alive with talk and perked on caffeines, I realized that the only record of my one life would be this record of another's. That as the wrong JC it was up to me and only me to tell them to stop--to tell Rach to stop searching for her husband (I'm here), to tell my mother to stop searching for her son (I'm here), to send my regrets to you both and remember you, Dad--I'm hoping to get together, all on the same page. :// 10 years ago this September, 10 Arab Muslims hijacked two airplanes and flew them into the Twin Towers of my Life & Book. My book was destroyed--my life has never recovered. And so it was, the End before the beginning: two jets fueled with total strangers, terrorists--two of whom were Emirati--bombing my career, bombing me personally. And now let me debunk all the conspiracies: George W. Bush didn't have the towers taken down with controlled demolitions, the FAA didn't take its satellites offline to let the jets fly over NY airspace unimpeded, the Israeli government didn't withhold intel about what was going to happen (all just to have a pretext for another Gulf War), and as for the theory that no Jews died or were even harmed in the attacks--what am I? what was this? That day was my final page, my last word, ellipses . . . ellipses . . . period--closing the covers on all my writing, all my rewriting, all my investments of all the money my father had left me and my mother had loaned me in travel, computer equipment/support, translation help, and research materials (Moms never let me repay my loans). I'd worried for months, fretted for years, checked thesauri and dictionaries for other verbs I could do, I'd paced. I couldn't sleep or wake, fantasized best, worst, and average case scenarios. Working on a book had been like being pregnant, or like planning an invasion of Poland. To write it I'd taken a parttime job in a bookstore, I'd taken off from my parttime job in the bookstore, I'd lived cheaply in Ridgewood and avoided my friends, I'd been avoided by friends, procrastinated by spending noons at the Battery squatting alone on a boulder across from a beautiful young paleskinned blackhaired mother rocking a stroller back and forth with a fetish boot while she read a book I pretended was mine, hoping that her baby stayed sleeping forever or at least until I'd finished the thing its mother was reading--I'd been finishing it forever--I'd just finished it, I'd just finished and handed it in. I handed it to my agent, Aaron, who read it and loved it and handed it to my editor, Finnity, who read it and if he didn't love it at least accepted it and cut a check the size of a page--which he posted to Aar who took his percentage before he posted the remainder to me--before he, Finnity, scheduled the publication for "the holidays" (Christmas), which in the publishing industry means scheduled for a season before "the holidays" (Christmas), to be set out front in the fall at whatever nonchain bookstores were at the time being replaced by chain bookstores about to be replaced by your preferred online retailer. The book, my book, to be stuffed into a stocking hanging so close to the fire that it would burn before anyone had the chance to read it, which was, essentially, what happened. Finnity, then, edited--it wasn't the book yet, just a manuscript--handed, manhandled it, back to me. The edits had to be argued about, debated. I was incensed, I recensed, reedited in a manner that reoriginated my intentions, then when it was all recompleted and done again and my prose and so my sanity intact I passed the ms. back to Finnity who sent it to production (Rod?), who turned it into proofs he sent to Finnity who printed and sent them to me, who recorrected them again, subtracting a word here, adding a chapter there, before returning them to Finnity who sent them to a copyeditor (Henry?), who copyedited and/or proofread them (Henri?), then sent them to production (Rod?), who after inputting the changes had galleys printed and bound with the cover art (photograph of a synagogue outside Chełm converted into a granary, 1941, Anonymous, © United States Holocaust Museum), the jacket/frontflap copy I wrote myself, not to mention the bio, which I wrote myself too, and the publicity photo for the backflap (© I. Raúl Lindsay), which I posed for, hands in frontpockets moody, within a tenebrous archway of the Manhattan Bridge. All that, including the blurbs obtained from Elie Wiesel and Dr. Ruth Westheimer, being sent out to the critics four months before date of publication (by Kimi! my publicist!), four months commonly considered enough time for critics to read it or not and prose their own hatreds, meaning that galleys, softcover, were posted in spring, mine delivered around the middle of May--tripping over that package left in my vestibule by a courier either lazy or trusting--though I held a finished copy only in mid-August--after I insisted on nitpicking through the text once again in the hopes of hyphen-removal--when Aar sent to Ridgewood two paramedics who stripped off their uniforms to practice CPR on each other, then gave me a defibrillatory lapdance and a deckled hardcover. Every September the city has that nervy crisp air, that new season briskness: new films in the theaters where after a season of explosions serious black and white actors have sex against the odds and subplot of a crumbling apartheid regime, the new concert season led by exciting new conductors with wild floppy hair and big capped teeth premiering new repertoire featuring the debuts of exciting new soloists of obscure nationalities (an Ashkenazi/Bangladeshi pianist accompanying a fiery redheaded Indonesian violinist in Fiddler on the Hurūf), new galleries with new exhibitions of unwieldy mixedmedia installations (Climate Change Up: a cloud seeded with ballot chad), new choreography on new themes (La danse des tranches, ou pas de derivatives), new plays on and off Broadway featuring TV actresses seeking stage cred to relaunch careers playing characters dying of AIDS or dyslexia. September's also the time of new books coming out, of publication parties held at new lounges, new venues. Which was why on that freefloating Monday after Labor Day, with the city returned to itself rested and tanned, my publisher gathered my friends, frenemies, writers, in the type of emerging neighborhood that magazines and newspapers were always underpaying them to christen. Understand, on my first visits to NY the Village had just been split between East and West. SoHo went, so there had to be NoHo. When I first moved to the city the realestate pricks were scamming the editors into helping reconfigure the outerboroughs too, turning Brooklyn, flipping Queens, for zilch in return, only the displacement of minorities despite their majority. At the time of my party, Silicon Alley had just been projected along Broadway, in glassed steel atop the Flatiron--each new shadow of each new tower being foreshadowed initially in language (sarcastic language). Excerpted from Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.</anon>
Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Language is paramount in Cohen's work. His last novel, Witz, was a linguistically dexterous work spanning more than 800 pages. Two-page sentences spiked with shards of scattered verses invited the reader into the deep psyche of his characters. Here, the author pens a syntactically enticing narrative of technology. The main character, Joshua Cohen, is an unsuccessful novelist who makes a living as a ghostwriter. He has written everything from PhD dissertations to conference presentations for academics. However, when he is contacted by the CEO of Tetration, one of the world's most successful tech firms, to ghostwrite his memoir, Cohen's life transforms from the mundane to the electrifying. What starts as just another freelance job ends in an investigation of the technologies that mediate our collective fears and desires. Delving deep into the semantic web of our networked lives, Cohen pushes the reader into the wasteland of our abbreviated vocabulary, one SQL (structured query language) at a time. VERDICT Much like Cohen's previous work, this densely packed narrative will appeal to readers with an appreciation for experimental fiction and the ever-expanding limits of language.-Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Like Pynchon's Bleeding Edge and Eggers's The Circle, Cohen's (Witz) latest is an ambitious and inspired attempt at the Great American Internet Novel. The narrator, Joshua Cohen, is a struggling writer whose debut effort was inauspiciously launched on Sept. 10, 2001. Deciding to "earn better money... at the expense of identity," he agrees to ghostwrite the memoir of another Joshua Cohen, referred to as "Principal." Principal is the secretive founder of Tetration, a tech company that has developed a revolutionary search engine and seeks to "equalize ourselves with data and data with ourselves." Speaking to his ghostwriter in the first-person plural he leisurely relates the genesis and evolution of Tetration while sprinkling in a mixture of ominous epigrams ("All who read us are read,"), mystical musings, and "techsperanto," the language of Silicon Valley. But Principal has another motive in sharing his story, one which forces his biographer to go into hiding, and offline, to complete his task. The novel maps the recent history of the Internet onto one of Western culture's oldest stories, the plague-filled wanderings of Moses and his fractious band of Israelites journeying toward the Promised Land. This allegorical element imposes just enough order on a saga as sprawling and unruly as the Web. A dense, thrilling, and occasionally perplexing work, Cohen's encyclopedic epic is about many things-language, art, divinity, narrative, desire, global politics, surveillance, consumerism, genealogy-but it is above all a standout novel about the Internet, humanity's "first mutual culture," in which our identities are increasingly defined by a series of ones and zeroes. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
A writer's effort to prepare a biography of a Google-like company's founder sits at the core of this smart, choppy novel that's trying to take on technology, creativity, and much else. In a couple hundred pages fewer than 2010's mammoth Witz, Cohen (Four New Messages, 2012, etc.) presents a writer named Joshua Cohen whose last novel fared poorly because it came out on Sept. 11, 2001. Ten years later, the fictional writer is offered the job of writing "the memoir of the Joshua Cohen I'm always mistaken for," the "genius googolionaire" creator of the Internet-search firm Tetration.com. Long stretches rich in high-tech lingo entail the Web genius describing his growing up, how the company got going, and how success affected the initial team, particularly the enigmatic Moe, who made searching profitable and then disappeared. The villainwhose complicity with the government raises echoes of Edward Snowden and Julian Assangeis the unsubtly named Tetration president, Kori Dienerowitz (with the likely laugh that the real writer may have made little dinero on Witz). The first fictional Cohen's rocky marriage allows for fun pokes at bad blogs (his wife's) and sloppy emails (her boyfriend's). The real Cohen riffs impressively on countless Web-related matters, from chaos to code to venture capital to Y2K and the woes of single-minded work: "we had ringworm, shingles, scabies, and mule lymphangitiscircadian rhythm disorder, tendonitis." The corollary for common readers could be frustration at the flood of tech terms, shorthand, and slang. It's comparable on both counts to William Gaddis' comic dissection of postwar finance in JR. Like Gaddis, Cohen also recognizes the laughs and peril at this technologically challenging stage of the human comedy and its new questions about what people are searching for, how the results may affect them, and what it all may cost. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.