In Conversation: Joshua Cohen and Steve Stern
Tuesday September 11, 2012
Authors Joshua Cohen (Four New Messages) and Steve Stern (The Book of Mischief) came together to discuss their new books, both out from independent publisher Graywolf Press, and their writing.
About Four New Messages
Highbrow and low-down, these four intensely felt stories explain what happens when the virtual begins to colonize the real. 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 New York novelist exiled to the Midwest 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.
Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in New Jersey. He is the author of five books, including A Heaven of Others and Witz. His nonfiction has appeared in Bookforum, the Forward, Harper’s, and other publications. He lives in New York City.
About The Book of Mischief
The Book of Mischief triumphantly showcases twenty-five years of outstanding work by one of our true masters of the short story. Steve Stern’s stories take us from the unlikely old Jewish quarter of the Pinch in Memphis to a turn-of-the-century immigrant community in New York; from the market towns of Eastern Europe to a down-at-the-heels Catskills resort. Along the way we meet a motley assortment of characters: Mendy Dreyfus, whose bungee jump goes uncannily awry; Elijah the prophet turned voyeur; and the misfit Zelik Rifkin, who discovers the tree of dreams. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Kafka’s cockroach also makes an appearance in these pages, animated as they are by instances of bewildering transformation. The earthbound take flight, the meek turn incendiary, the powerless find unwonted fame. Weaving his particular brand of mischief from the wondrous and the macabre, Steve Stern transforms us all through the power of his brilliant imagination.
Steve Stern, winner of the National Jewish Book Award, is the author of several previous novels and story collections, including The Frozen Rabbi and The Wedding Jester. He teaches at Skidmore College in upstate New York.