Numbers, the Internet and the Modern World
6 9 2019
Numbers, the Internet and the Modern World

Joshua Cohen on how technology can represent a threat to literature.

Joshua Cohen is an American novelist whose works include Witz and Book of Numbers. At his event here in Mantua, he primarily talks about his 2015 novel, Book of Numbers, which has just been translated into Italian. Instead of novel being about two people, Cohen talks about it being with two people, both with the same name; Joshua Cohen. One of the men is a CEO of a huge internet company and the other is a ghost writer who was contracted to write about the other, in a kind of biography/autobiography. Cohen wanted both of these characters to have the same name so that those two different voices, the ghost writer and the subject would then become one when the ghost writer has to inhabit the voice of the CEO.

“What they are really talking about is the history of the internet,” Cohen, says before he begins reading part of the book for the audience.

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Cohen said that he doesn’t feel that he has a message involving technology and the internet, but he feels this book is describing how it feels to live in or experience this technology. He wants his writing to be very realist and to accurately describe the world that we live in.

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He says he woke up one day and the world became very ‘white and black’ and wondered ‘is this helping or hurting?’ There are always sides nowadays, because you are either with or against something. But Cohen says he needs more grey in the black and white. Even though technology is distracting us, he believes we as a society have never read more than we are reading now and although what we are reading isn’t great, Cohen finishes by saying “has it ever been?”