ATTENTION: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction

ATTENTION: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction

by Joshua Cohen


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Attention reveals a fresh, vital literary voice as it covers seemingly every imaginable topic relating to modern life.”—Entertainment Weekly 

“Joshua Cohen may be America’s greatest living writer.”—The Washington Post


One of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists, Joshua Cohen arrives with his first collection of nonfiction, the culmination of two decades of writing and thought about life in the digital age. In essays, memoir, criticism, diary entries, and letters—many appearing here for the first time—Cohen covers the full depth and breadth of modern life: politics, literature, art, music, travel, the media, and psychology, and subjects as diverse as Google, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, fictional animals, Gustav Mahler, Aretha Franklin, John Zorn, landscape photography, fake Caravaggios, Wikipedia, Gertrude Stein, Edward Snowden, Jonathan Franzen, Olympic women’s fencing, Atlantic City casinos, the closing of the Ringling Bros. circus, and Azerbaijan. 

Throughout ATTENTION, Cohen directs his sharp gaze at home and abroad, calling upon his extraordinary erudition and unrivaled ability to draw connections between seemingly unlike things to show us how to live without fear in a world overflowing with information. In each piece, he projects a quality of thought that is uniquely his, and a voice as witty, profound, and distinct as any in American letters.

At this crucial juncture in history, ATTENTION is a guide for the perplexed—a handbook for anyone hoping to bring the wisdom of the past into the culture of the future.

Praise for ATTENTION

“Dazzling in its scope . . . If curiosity is a writer’s greatest innate gift, Joshua Cohen may be America’s greatest living writer.”The Washington Post 

“Cause for celebration and close study . . . [Cohen] will hunt after neglected shards of the past, minor histories, and charge them with an immediacy in the present. . . . He is experimenting with the essay form much more, and more cleverly, than any major American writer today.”The Wall Street Journal

“In Attention, Joshua Cohen makes an eclectic argument for how to improve our lives. . . . [He] tackles a surprising range of subjects to underline distraction’s role in our fraught predicament and to argue that paying attention could help us get out of it. . . . When it comes to making sense of our times with verve and imagination, few authors are more rewarding.”Financial Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399590214
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/14/2018
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 395,570
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in Atlantic City. He has written novels (Moving Kings, Book of Numbers), short fiction (Four New Messages), and nonfiction for The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, n+1, London Review of Books, The New Republic, and others. From 2001 to 2007, he worked as a journalist throughout Europe. In 2017 he was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists. He lives in New York City.

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It’s a Circle

Excerpted from "ATTENTION"
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Copyright © 2018 Joshua Cohen.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents

Distraction 1

Home 9

It's a Circle (On the Closing of the Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus) 11

From the Diaries: Groundhog Day Protests 2017 32

The Last Last Summer (On Donald Trump and the Fall of Atlantic City) 33

Notes on the Concession 63

From the Diaries: Lecture Review; Memoir 67

Exit Bernie 68

From the Diaries: New York Signs: Last Exit for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge; Yield; Siamese Connection; LIRR; R Trains Run Express; Stop 85

Letter to Ruth May Rivers 88

First Family, Second Life (On Thomas Pynchon) 93

Letterform, Islandform 108

From the Diaries: Meditations 113

9/11 Blue 114

From the Diaries: Hat Lessons Gleaned from Attending a Film Noir Marathon with a Nonagenarian Ex-Milliner Who Never Stops Talking 115

Letter to Stephen Shore 116

Downtown Underground (On John Zorn) 120

From the Diaries: Meditations from the Gym 130

Editing the I (On Gordon Lish) 131

From the Diaries: Four Facts I Learned in a Bar on Staten Island; A Successful Man in Chicago Is Complimented on His Suit 136

Lip Service (On Aretha and Beyoncé) 137

WIKI: What I Know Is 140

Boundless Informant (On Greenwald's Snowden) 143

From the Diaries: Salt and Pepper Shakers; When We Stopped Saying We Were Going to Move Out of the City 147

Datasexual (On Morozov, Lanier, Johnson, and Google) 148

From the Diaries: Navajo Reservation; Medium Thoreau 156

Abroad 157

Writing About the Present (Mirror, Body, Shadow) 159

From the Diaries: Brows; Freckles 164

Zibaldone Diary 165

Zizek Press Junket 176

From the Diaries: Conversation Summary (Next Table); Why I've Never Had Sex in Hungary 179

No One Hates Him More (On Franzen's Kraus) 180

Recognized Witness (On H. G. Adler) 189

From the Diaries: What Kind of Neighborhood Is Palilula (Belgrade)?; The Hague 199

Conducting Mortality (On Henry-Louis de La Grange's Mahler) 200

Fencing for Hitler (On Helene Mayer) 212

Speak Easy (On Bohumil Hrabal) 218

From the Diaries: Museum Fad (Rijeka); Critical Typo 230

Hung like an Obelisk, Hard as an Olympian (An Abecedarium of English-Language Publishing in Paris) 231

From the Diaries: Sounds of Odessa; Sights of Odessa; Odessa Fashion; Odessa at Work; Odessa Geography; London Stumble 254

Pond Memories (On Georges Perec) 255

Auto-Flâneurism (On Tom McCarthy) 262

From the Diaries: The Only Caravaggio in Russia; My Friend's Estimation of His Grandfather, a Forgotten Hungarian Painter 266

The Death of Culture, and Other Hypocrisies (On Mario Vargas Llosa) 267

All Foison, All Abundance (On Florio's Montaigne and Shakespeare's Flotio) 272

From the Diaries: Sentences from an English-Language Workbook. Found in Sofa; A Phrase that Must Be, but Is Not, Originally Yiddish

Inner Syntax (On Eimear McBride) 276

Inadvertence (On Alan Turing's Centennial) 280

Her Own Asylum (On Anna Kavan) 283

From the Diaries: American Woman Complimented by Greek Man; Bucharest Hostel 286

Bibliotbanatos, or Epigraphs for a Last Book 287

Dreamlands 289

Open Sesame 291

Me, U, Baku, Quba 294

From the Diaries: Adoration of New Magi; Le Pont Mirabeau 324

On the Transit of Toledo 325

In Partial Disgrace (On Charles Newman) 335

From the Diaries: A Certain Angle: The Mind Too; A; Posterity 347

Reorientalism (On Mathias Énard) 348

The Literature of Two Easts 352

From the Diaries: Traveling 357

Israel Diary 358

Lines of Occupation (On Yitzhak Laor) 364

From the Diaries: To Think; Traveling Without You 376

Literary Animals 377

Top Ten Books About Online 379

From the Diaries: What's in the Bag?; Overnight Flight WC; Shooting 386

Impromptu Fantasias (On Benjamin De Casseres) 387

Paragraph for Liu Xiaobo 393

From the Diaries: There Should Be Words for the Following in German; Germany to Jersey for the Holidays 394

Thoughts on the Roths and Their Kaddish 395

Dream Translations from the Early Hasidic 397

Attention! A (Short) History 403

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