We still haven’t figured out what the Internet means for us, what it says about us. What does it mean that millions of us have begun obsessively documenting the minutiae of our lives, turning ourselves into abject exhibitionists? What does it mean that one ill-advised post, created by someone at a carefree and feckless age, can live on for decades, if not longer? If a whiff of triteness hangs around these questions, it is perhaps because they are asked so frequently and urgently by so many. So it’s a ripe time for talented literary voices to breathe some fresh life into them, and that’s what Joshua Cohen does in “Four New Messages,” his new book of short stories.
I’ve started a little tradition with new students the last few years. I offer a door prize for the library orientation session I do after Convocation with the new crop of grad students. I pick a work of fiction that speaks to communication or media studies. The students won’t be reading much fiction in the program, little if any, all the more reason for me to remind them tht literature, past and current, is pretty fertile ground for thinking about communication! I try to pick something fairly recent. Last year’s prize was Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, a May-December romance set in a dystopian New York in the near (as in next Tuesday) future that is dominated by media and brand-ridden consumption.
This year’s offering is a collection (just out, with very good press) of short stories by Joshua Cohen, Four New Messages.
Reviewer Jesse Singal in The Boston Globe writes: