I had to ditch a star rating altogether for this one Too much vacillation It was lot to handle, honestly A thoroughly thoroughly dense and daunting read, especially to a non Jewish, non religious person such as myself So a 3 But it s also goddamn beautiful The writing is seriously gorgeous There were so many sections where I literally said wow aloud to myself after reading them that I eventually lost count So a 5 But but it s also exhausting Even excruciating at times I had to stop in the middle for an extended break Seriously Like, I had to take a month off from reading it due to exhaustion So knock a star off and make it a 4 because why, because I wasn t up to the demands it made upon me at that particular time Is that a good reason to knock a star off Ah, to hell with the stars I can t make up my mind, and honestly I don t care It s a great book that happens to be exhausting, and coming back to it fresh after a break was the best thing I could have done I was reinvigorated by the power and beauty of the language and compelled and subsequently haunted by some of the imagery I don t want to spoil anything I m glad I didn t read anything about the plot before reading this thing, because the plot itself is as wild as the writing is beautiful Plus, the humor There s a lot of absurdity and punning and vaudevillian comedy The very nature of Ben, the main character, his very FORM, his anatomical anomalies again, I m not going to spoil anything, but you ll know what I mean if you decide to take a ride with Witz And then back tobeauty to come to the very end and get the Punchlines section honestly, there were a few tears Not just for the ancient Jewish man sitting in his Manhattan apartment going over it all in exquisitely broken run on, but for the grateful realization that writing can still be this grand, ambitious, grandiose, daring, original and difficult to quantify and shove into convenient boxes and rating systems Witz isn t for everyone, but I d recommend it to any adventurous reader Cohen is an incredible writer and Witz deserves your time Just maybe have some aspirin handy, and don t be afraid to take a break from it if you need to. At times I thought I d forgotten how to read.A representative if shorter than most paragraph With everything shut, everything s perfect, as if nothing ever went soiled, gone spoiled, as it was and has been clean forever, without taint she s talking to herself pure from the very beginning all that s dull the life and the knifing made sharp upon the whetstone of her tongue, foods wrapped to keep in her skin, how she d always served, never served herself, never been served herself, that s if you forget Wanda and how in her high mighty she daily does Which is terrible, makes her feel what, slighting, mistaken, and ill But now she opens a drawer and leaves it open to feel it, the sin p.51If you can read and comprehend the above easily and with pleasure, then this is the book for you For the rest of us, perhaps, not so much It took an astonishingly long time for me to finish this book, and I must admit that I did not like it very much.This is a difficult work, an astounding experiment in service to a deeply bizarre hypothesis, pushing at and often far beyond the boundaries of readability More William Burroughs than Michael Chabon, Witz is a thorny mass of nearly impenetrable prose verbose and bereft of dialogue, full instead of neologisms, typos, neologisms masquerading as typos, alljammed words togethered, waterboarded syntax, Yiddish jargon both common and obscure, multilingual quotes in German, Latin, French and others, long lists like this one, massive multipage paragraphs, bad jokes and worse puns a clear case of logorrhea run rampant Witz contains perhaps its own best, if ambivalent, assessment, on p.234 a universal, unread, unreadably total book yet to be cataloged as to the interest of its worthlessness And yet it s got something, an undeniable spark that kept me reading.I m going to includeexamples from the text in this review, but that s all right This is a book impossible to spoil It is the thing entire that means what it does its individual parts are just ingredients in the stew.After a flurry of epigrams including this one, attributed to God, and whose accuracy I cannot dispute , Witz opens with an extended and rather surreal scene in a ruined synagogue, divorced from time and ambiguous as to locale The story in a nutshell though plot s not the point the play with word s the thing this is the Rapture of the Jews Cohen even uses the word rapture at at least one point All the Jews in the world die in one night except the firstborn sons Then they all die, too except one, an unusual son indeed, he of the endlessly regrowing foreskin Benjamin Israelien, born on Christmas Eve in the Thousand Cedars development in Noo Joysey.Once Ben is born, the story revolves around Him The disappearance of the Jews results in worldwide spasms of guilt and reaction, a popular wave of gentile Affiliation, when the goys realize they don t have the Jews to kick around any There are elements of wish fulfillment in this story, but this is not a Nazi tract quite the contrary, in fact America, in particular the events are worldwide, but Cohen s almost always focused closely on our Western citadel , chooses to become, in essence, a new Jewish nation, converting enthusiastically and en masse, as if the yarmulke were the new hula hoopDespite the average length of Cohen s sentences and paragraphs, sometimes he s most effective when most brief Ben lies in His bedroom, and even sleeping aches p.250Although perhaps this longer,pensive extract from late in the book sheds some light as well Pay attention Important How we live amidst the publicity of privation Witness the unique willingness of our people to package the product of experience both collective and individual, only to market it that experience of living through history, that experience of being forced to live against history as simulacra not impelled by duress but by choice, it s been said, not compelled by oppression, torture or threat, but amazingly by elective affinity it becoming a matter of preference to engage such sensation, to become occupied by such strange infotainment, as virtualized in seemingly every medium to be just enough real that you ll come out of the commerce alive, and perhaps even willing to be upsold on an ever newer revelation, an evenintimate experience that of your own life no longer yours, lived only between the deaths of your preference Identify and die, deny thrice and survive, up to you p.708And Cohen occasionally rises to urban poetry and then, another window, the madness that Manhattans the skyline the assjawbone s teethview, the keyedge view, the serrated knifehorizon, hugely brute and crude, and then occulted within its midst, jutting up from between the rises of scrapers left abandoned, to reap a whirlwind tenanted only by the sky, with their lights off, their sleek sides wounded with panes shattered or just missing p.363It must have been nearly impossible to copyedit this book, given the number of intentional and consistent deviations from standard orthography e.g., menschs instead of theregular mensches , but there were also things that were just wrong Cohen can t spell stationery or dependent, for example, and seriously, Josh adding eth to everything The Last Supper, pp 736 738 does not make it sound Elizabethan, just stupid However, the recurring use of the word Palestein is no mistake.The book concludes with an extended stream of consciousness rant called Punchlines, which indeed contains many recognizable punch lines from jokes in Yiddish vernacular and otherwise, told and retold from the stage and otherwise, page after page of nearly punctuation free word salad which, if you ve read this far, you ll just have to get through, or at least I did, at the very end ending with or at least stopping with this it s like this my father was a Cohen and his father was a Cohen and his father before that was a Cohen it s steady work p.817 On Christmas Eve , All The Jews In The World Die In A Strange, Millennial Plague, With The Exception Of The Firstborn Males, Who Are Soon Adopted By A Cabal Of Powerful People In The American Government By The Following Passover, However, Only One Is Still Alive Benjamin Israelien A Kindly, Innocent, Ignorant Man Child As He Finds Himself Transformed Into An International Superstar, Jewishness Becomes All The Rage Matzo Ball Soup Is In Every Bowl, Sidelocks Are Hip And The Only Truly Jewish Jew Left Is Increasingly Stigmatized For Not Being Religious Since His Very Existence Exposes The Illegitimacy Of The Newly Converted, Israelien Becomes The Object Of A Worldwide HuntMeanwhile, In The Not Too Distant Future Of Our Own, Real World, Another Last Jew The Last Living Holocaust Survivor Sits Alone In A Snowbound Manhattan, Providing A Final Melancholy Witness To His Experiences In The Form Of The Punch Lines To Half Remembered Jokes This checklist was inspired by my reading of Witz.Checklist for Writers who Aspire to Write a Long, Difficult NovelThe Long, Difficult Novel LDN is a genre unto itself And like any genre, there are certain features that should be present in any work that seeks to be included Since loyal readers of this genre will expect to experience these qualities, I thought it would be helpful to put together a quick checklist to assist writers who aspire to write a Long, Difficult Novel 1 Make sure editors peer reviewers stay out of your way Don t let your spouse or friend read your initial drafts either Your Novel should be unnecessarily Long, and receiving input from others will undoubtedly work against this, since the first thing they will recommend is that you shorten the Novel, make itunderstandable, delete unnecessary tangents, and remove most of the sillier stuff The LDN as a genre has not yet gained the acceptance it deserves, and so your Novel s unwieldy length and zaniness will not be seen as a virtue in and of itself 2 Make sure the prose is a real chore This one s pretty easy Just ensure that anyone picking up the work will have a difficult time making it through paragraphs It helps if you a immerse the reader in arcane matters covered in great detail b avoid explaining what s happening c if you must explain what s happening, do so in the most oblique way possible d when at all possible, use words that no one knows Readers of LDNs value using their dictionaries almost as much as they value verbal confusion 3 Disorient the reader, particularly in the first few sections It s hard to keep up full scale disorientation for the course of an entire Novel, since over time the reader will get used to your writing quirks and the way you present things, and eventually a picture of your vision will, alas, begin to emerge Thus, it s crucial that the beginning of the Novel features intense disorientation to offset this inevitability The reader of LDNs will expect to be confused and to have little idea of what s going on This reader will look forward to finding out what s going on only by consulting a companion written by an academic If this reader actually manages to understand the first few pages of your LDN, he she will likely put the book down and say that this was not the kind of Novel they were expecting Later on in your Novel, of course, the reader will expect to be rewarded rewards are a big part of the LDN genre by being given several long sections in comprehensible English 4 Make sure that no plot arc is completed or tied up This is one of the most important aspects of LDNs LDN readers will feel cheated if they ever find out what ultimately happens to a given character or storyline It s imperative that you end things in an arbitrary way the ending should be unsatisfying which, paradoxically, will be satisfying to LDN readers and should come out of nowhere This is a longstanding tradition of the genre, and it s in your best interest not to unsettle this 5 Pile on the absurdities Maybe you think an idea you have is a little too goofy, daffy, silly, etc Well, the LDN is a playing field in which to let such ideas run free No idea is too absurd as long as you pile on the details see following note and make sure to put in some good wisecracks 6 Pile on the details Something has to make this Novel 900 pages Details, as Dickens said, are the stuff of life But of course you will not be filling your Novel with detailed characters and plot like Dickens did in his Long, Easy Novels You have to make sure the details are somewhat excruciating to wade through, and preferably they are about things that are of interest to almost nobody The ideal LDN reader expects his her reading experience to be something of a trial, and a frenzied level of detail is a great way to satisfy this expectation 7 Make sure your LDN comes off as a kind of challenge The way your Novel looks should say, Sure, you ve completed such and such LDN, but can you complete this one There is a strong correlation between the difficulty of completing an LDN and the LDN s length and unpleasantness I probably don t have to spell this out to you the Longer andtedious Difficult your Novel is, the better It will do a lot for your Novel s reputation One of the things your Novel will have to accomplish is to make sure that the majority of people who pick up the book don t finish it This is another one of the rewards LDN readers expect inclusion within an exclusive literary minority 8 Keep your expectations realistic You cannot expect the majority of even LDN readers a grim, tough bunch to spend the time necessary to get what it was you were trying so hard to obscure throughout the course of your Novel Take heart It does not matter if many of these readers did not understand much of what they read, skimmed large sections, hadfun reading essays about your LDN than reading the LDN itself, or forced themselves through the pages out of an irrational mixture of dour duty and inexplicable compulsion Such readers likely got noout of your Novel than the many who put it down after the first few chapters But that does not matter The important thing is that they finished it. Damn you Joshua Cohen You ve cost me dearly Not only in time I couldn t really afford work suffered horrendously , but in the way you ve twisted the world around me Expending the energy to tackle an 827 page book takes a leap of faith to be sure It also takes a few strong nudges When those nudges come in a trinity one has to take a deep breath and dive in The triumvirate, all discovered in a morning, started with an excerpt on Ben Notable American Women Marcus website, rapidly followed by noticing a rapturous blurb by Steve Arc d X Erickson and then an intriguing interview by Blake Scorch Atlas ButlerMarcus, Erickson and Butler are all heroes They all wallow in language like words are the salt in the Dead Sea But then a further google uncovered numerous comparisons with David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon, Franz Kafka and James Joyce Ahem And indeed, after several exhausting weeks, I can say that Joshua Cohen joins their ranks with enviable chutzpah The essential story has been described elsewhere here, so no need to go into that Suffice it to say I am not one of the Affiliated, but trust me, you don t need to be Cohen essentially paints with words, creating vast canvases that embrace everything from surrealism to science fiction, from heart wrenching heartbreak to heart warming hilarity Despite the sheer weirdness of structure, there is a clear cut narrative here, albeit with a moment of cunnilingus that would make David Cronenberg blanch Cohen has created an alternate universe richer than any in contemporary literature Steve Erickson, in his blurb for the book, states that the only question is whether Joshua Cohen s novel is the Ark or the Flood My question back is, is it feasible that it is both Though once such suckling is over and done with, only interpretation is left the life of the lips without nipple Witz is worth your reading time to say nothing of reviewing time, of which I now have precious little, but there is already a smattering ofarticulate judgments above and below A resounding of the book is written in a sustained crescendo, the finale being something like orchestral death throes, a pit of worn out instruments wheezing and grinding out their final rattles under the inescapable crushing pull of historical gravity, as in prophecy or scientific probability being sucked into an all silencing apocalyptic core I couldn t truthfully tell you if that s the in the book or just in my head But I believe that Witz rewards whatever levels of concentrated attention are brought to it, whether word for word or re raveling the whole shebang In the beginning, nothing happens but description the itemizing and enumerating of a person s surrounding contents tells the story, connects everything in time, not only what the spectrum of objects reveals about the person but what the latter mis recognizes in the former The highest, completest definition of a word or object thing becomes historical by plunging through every wormhole in the present You get deep enough, writing blindly through the dirt, and you lose the way to the surface Or I like this way of saying it too there are sentences that span like a suspension bridge, from one riveting grid to the next All possible detours are taken to drive the words around obstacles of habit or the inconvenience of non existence in pursuit of a novel destination I got onea torrent disguised as literature in which every godforsaken eddy is fathomed by the infinite chain of language Witz unavoidably invokes the founder of psychoanalysis, who makes a brief appearance herein as I m pretty sure a multi tentacled omniscient ultra being funny stuff Butinteresting is the exhaustive practice taking place on the playing field outlined by the theory of wit which asserts that inasmuch as the unconscious is structured like a language, it is much fun fun as a fuck, in fact to indulge in the free play of signifiers Cohen conjoins innumerable couplings of neologistic portmanteaus which provide a consistent wellspring of joy in reading To inadequately conclude under duress, yesyes, it is BigDifficult but much less so than you might expect , no, it is not perfect though at times it gets as close as anything , and I am immensely glad to have experienced it from start to finish, and yet relieved to be finally freed to read something else On a personal note, it was good enough for me to take a break from Lacan s seminars to focus exclusively on it for a while, which is the only way it could be finished it in less than a full season. It Is Done Finishing this book leaves me with a feeling akin to a dream For over a year, close to two, I ve been reading this tome off and on And, like similarly long and dense works like Gravity s Rainbow or Ulysses , I ve read a decent number of shorter,accessible works, in the time it s taken me to finish this book once What does all that say Well, that namely this book not only prides itself on allusive as well as stylistic density, but that it does all of this with a complete lack of apology or compromise towards the reader in fact, according to one orinterviews with Joshua Cohen, his first draft was something like 4000 pages long with one passage in PHONETIC HEBREW.But why Is there a point Is this just a Jewish Ulysses A Brooklyn Jewish writer s attempt at HIS Gravity s Rainbow or some such other high modernist and or post modern literary opus Well, in this reader s opinion, it is those things, but really, only accidentally Whereas there are moments or even long protracted sequences in GR or Ulysses where the narrative itself seems completely obfuscated by the author s density of language, here, in Witz, the plot is actually fairly, actually very, simple, and even linear Read the back cover of this book and you will see a very succinct and concise summation of what mostly happens in the book The plot here is not complicated A to B to C with a few digressions here and there sometimes flashbacks or postmodern tropes like the listing of objects or even a recipe with an eventual break, a sudden change in setting and character, and that s it, the end, mind blowing apparently ensues, and we re left to wonder what we know about this, what was worth knowing about this, and how or what do we tell others of what we know about this.But enough talking around the book, what about the book itself Really, I liked it, a lot Of all the words used in the reviews for this book I d side with bold , ambitious , even, for the most part, brilliant Over the course of a ten year writing period Cohen has constructed what will surely be an eternal work so much as there are readers bold and simultaneously humble enough to tackle texts of this viciously intellectual level His use of language is exactly half awesome and half maddening The yiddishspeak in question is for the most part a near unbearable ordeal to read through, especially over the course of 800 pages But within that ordeal there are passages that are so rich in poetry, so suffused with a Jewish wit that was, apparently still is, has always been, but may never be again, along with allusions to texts, people, and events that, I can admit went almost completely over my head this book has to be read with a dictionary, several in fact, and with access to the internet or a person to explain every reference, maybe Cohen himself, not sure if he d be up for that , that I found myself unable to not finish the book I had to see where the writer was going with all of these ideas and what, if anything, he was going to say about, what, EVERYTHING regarding Jews and Judaism, specifically it would seem, the Jews of Europe and America, essentially, those in the Diaspora, the Galut, the Exile, outside of the apparently chosen Land.In essence I ve never read nor do I think I ever will read such a bloodlessly cruel yet infinitely understanding text of what it means to be Jewish From any Jewish author, American, Israeli, of any European extraction, none of them has come close to this, all were, up until now, apparently poking or ice skating on the surface of it to borrow a term from Charles Bukowski describing Truman Capote The pride, the loathing, the love, the hate, the brilliance, the idiocy, the ritual, the pageantry, the heritage, the meaninglessness, the humor, and so much else But if I can say anything about this text, what it all means to me, it would read like this This is a book about humor and finding humor, like most humor is found, in the ridiculousness of life And there is no place better for that humor to be found than in the story of the Jewish people This isn t a warm humor or a wink wink we re all in on it because we re a special and Chosen People kind of humor, no, it s simpler and a lot harder to bear than that The humor, the joke, to me, is that even with everything that the Jewish people have been through be it expulsions, pogroms, inquisitions, holocausts, wars, oppression and abuses of all kindsthe destruction twice of our most holy temple, the loss and eventual reestablishment of our homeland we still find it in ourselves, as a people, to be crueler and infinitelydestructive to each other our apparent own our family than any of our oppressors enemies real and imagined could ever be in their wildest most disgusting imaginings But then, who sdamaging than family Who could be Who would want to be And yet, we re still around Andthan anything else, that s fucking hysterical to me. Identity evolves out of many things A chief influence of this complex process is cultural history, particularly so when collective traumas have occurred, especially on the scale of the Jewish Holocaust To me, the inescapability of this history seems the crux of Witz It is impossible to evade such Gravity, one may try very hard, at the most extreme through thorough counter identifications, mirages of maternal incest, or even fantastical acts of birthing oneself, but inevitably one will only become anew, rid of history, as much as one can find the end of a Rainbow Witz requires and deserves full concentration I found it best to complete full chapters in one sitting If this didn t occur I would have to go back and read the chapter again This happened a lot, not a nuisance however as it resulted in a much greater comprehension of narrative and themes which when attended to in this manner, ended up being very clear and absolutely striking.Many ludicrous tangents, although zany on the surface, offered incredible critiques of modern society Countless episodes provided captivating reading and I reckon I could dip back in and read a bit here and there at any time and be seriously satisfied Topics are far ranging Although this is one big and very long Witz it is very serious writing Cohen touches upon everything with a wellspring of superb prose Thoroughly enjoyed. Legitimacy and VirJohn I think this review might be a mess, I ll try to make it sound better soon A quick point before the review really startsThe mature reader approaches the piece of literature on its own terms, not vice versaVirJohnThat was said here by someone who I discussed in a previous review Apparently when pushed too much he couldn t help but call someone some names They have been deleted though John does not like to be told he is wrong I will return to this point later.The start of the review.I did not like this book There were maybe a hundred pages out of the eight hundred and seventeen pages that I thought were awesome but generally my feelings were lukewarm towards the book By the time the last hundred or so pages came around I grew fed up with the book and I wished it to be over without having to put in any of the work to read it myself The final forty or so pages were written in a non puncuated and very rarely the block of text broken by the interjection of a a line of text and then a new paragraph starting See the Molly Bloom section of Ulysses Yes, yes I said having a lot of of a cadence than the beat boxing alliterations and beat poet ramblings of the last forty pages of Witz To be fair I didn t give those pages much of a chance I was tired I was tired of the book I didn t have anything to give I read like an automaton I was a poor reader But the book was like a teacher deciding to teach a whole new lesson, never before covered on the last day of school when everyone is ready to just get the fuck out of dodge You know I was a poor reader though An immature reader And we return to the top VirJohn s haughty words were stuck in my head as I slogged through the last couple of hundred pages of Witz Of course, I thought, a mature reader deals with the book on it s own terms Teenagers and poor readers whine that the book is too difficult or that it s boring to them because it isn t what they expected This book wasn t what I expected, but I thought I gave it a pretty decent shot and I thought I was fair to it, and I think I m a fairly mature reader who can grasp the slightly non obvious, so what went wrong Well one is the possibility that this book just isn t that good That it is a pastiche of Big Important Books BIB such as Ulysses, Gravity s Rainbow and a not so big but still important book Slaughterhouse Five And then probably some other books that I didn t catch the allusions to for the record my favorite part of the book was when it went into a sort of a In the Zone section of Gravity s Rainbow The problem with the book for me was that it was over written Anything that could be said in 10 words was said in a hundred words including some play on words, re workings of what was said in dialect, in homonym, put biblically and re said with some yiddish Cohen has an amazing skill at writing some great lyrical prose, and his ear for language is superb but there comes a point in a big book where you want to step out of the jive and get into the meat of the book Outside of the language though there is little to the book The book can be very well summed up by the back cover copy On Christmas Eve 1999, all the Jews in the world die in a strange, millennial plague, with the exception of the firstborn males, who are soon adopted by a cabal of powerful people in the American government By the following Passover, however, only one is still alive Benjamin Israelien a kindly, innocent, ignorant man child As he finds himself transformed into an international superstar, Jewishness becomes all the rage matzo ball soup is in every bowl, sidelocks are hip and the only truly Jewish Jew left is increasingly stigmatized for not being religious Since his very existence exposes the illegitimacy of the newly converted, Israelien becomes the object of a worldwide hunt .Meanwhile, in the not too distant future of our own, real world, another last Jew the last living Holocaust survivor sits alone in a snowbound Manhattan, providing a final melancholy witness to his experiences in the form of the punch lines to half remembered jokesThat is the book That is the story There is a littlethrown in to flush out the eight hundred pages And the old man in the second paragraph doesn t appear till the Molly Bloom section of the novel like Molly does in Joyce So the story is about the last Jew wandering around the American Landscape of post Christian converted to Judaism with a vengeance that goyim usually saves for pogroms or lynching others The problem of legitimacy.The former goyim though are met with a problem in the survivor of the last Jew Now he is the messiah, but with no Jews left who is he saving Goyim now realizes it s mistake and they all are going to back the winning horse The Messiah is here to save, but whom does he save The new Jews are not Jews as long as the Messiah in the form of the last Jew exists Does that make sense It s not that important if you don t get it, just nod along with me while I take the next step Jews differ from their other Abrahamic monotheistic relatives because they have internal legitimacy for their religion Jews don t go out to convert people You are a Jew or you are not yes there is some converting, but one generally doesn t see Evangelical Jews Jews don t need the other to believe in what they believe in There is no Paul to Saul, you know what I m saying Jews also have a tradition of dissent, the Old Testament is filled with people physically fighting God, yelling at him, arguing, trying to bargain with him, sitting down for a chat with him, seeing him and still disobeying him Where is Jacob to ask Jesus or Allah if he is ready to throw down The non believer doesn t hurt the Jewish faith because the idea of questioning God is in the faith That isn t to say there isn t going to be kvetching if a mensch decides not to believe, but it s not something that threatens the entire groundwork of a religions faith There are no books in the Judaica section of your Barnes and Noble about how to fight Atheists Or how science has finally proven that Intelligent Design is right Or how to talk to your Christian friend and sway him to the light of Adonai The non believer presents a different problem to the legitimacy of the Christian though Maybe not to all Christians but historically Christians aren t to tolerant with people who question the truth of their teachings It s not just that I need to believe but I need everyone else to believe to strengthen my own belief The other is a threat to my very metaphysical core Threats like that must be neutralized I m being a bit facetious, but this is the basic dichotomy created in Witz and the Evangelicalism at gunpoint the former goyim engage in Back to the top again.Legitimacy and reading An easy way to read and be smart is to know going into a book what you should think about the book If you know that Ulysses is the greatest novel of the 20th century and then read it as the greatest novel of the 20th century any failing on the part of the novel to convey the full literary greatestnesss of the 20th century is obviously a failing on your part It s easy to hold this view and say that people like Harold Bloom and the mythical God like men and women who constructed the Modern Library list of the Top 100 Novels Written in English between the years 1900 and 1998 can not be wrong This way you can easily point out good books, and only read good books, and never have to worry that you are making a mistake in judging value The only mistake is in your own skill, and that can be redeemed by stealing the thoughts of others and interjecting them into your head, clicking your heels three times and wishing them to be your own Many a grad student has used this formula for lasting but mediocre success Of course this method would make reading a novel like Witz impossible How to judge it since it has yet to have any kind of seal attached to it Did Harold Bloom throw some lambs blood on to it so we will save it for the future and be passed over the death of forgetfulness What to think Am I not getting it because I am not a serious enough reader Or is the book just not good My head would explode with this kind of view to reading I would be best to stick with the classics and every now and then maybe a very well received award winner With this kind of view though your whole structure must be threatened when someone says they tried to read it and didn t like it Or gave up on it and said it wasn t worth the time Those heretics must be destroyed They can not be right, for if someone has strongly read and still not found value in say Ulysses than the whole belief edifice crumbles and it becomes possible that the believer is not a strong reader but rather a talented parroter of accepted opinions The latter can not be the case The heretic will die for legitimacy to prevail.And to return all the way to the top A mature reader doesn t expect a book to be written for him or herself Neither does a child A child fully accepts a book on its own terms The book says A is for Apple A is for Apple It s simple The book speaks and the child nods It is the aging child, the teenager, the adult who want the book to fit into the framework they have in their head They want an action book to be action filled They don t want to be bored They see something on the cover it better be pointing to something in the book that they have a desire to have represented to them They find school books boring, it is part of their expectation This changes over time They learn to read They learn the codes and signals They learn how to read underlying signals They build up a vocabulary of previous books read that they use to create, place and recreate the present work in relation to what has come previously into their hands They learn what a novel is trying to say but they don t become passive and meet a novel on it s own terms They help to create the terms They wrestle with the novel, they say fuck you to the author when the author is trying to get away with too much They work with and against the author to help create the experience they have with the book The mature reader neither accepts the book like a child nor forces the book to be as he or she wants it to be like a petulant adolescent, but a synthesize of the two with a lived lifetime of experience helping to guide them through the set of signs put in place by the author This makes each book read an experience in itself, one similar but unique to anyone else s reading of the same book It makes for the possibility of having a radically different experience with the same pages printed with the same words by reading them at different times during your life It destroys the myth of inherent greatness for a work of literature and makes the greatness contingent on the reader with some works striking a nerve withreaders than others, for inviting re readings, and for opening the perspective of the reader into the world It allows for the reader to make up their own mind and not be shackled by conventional wisdom It allows for readers to think for themselves, and not need others to speak for them And to return to Witz once again.I don t know whose fault my reading of the book was I think it was a little bit of his and a little bit of mine We just didn t jive I liked his language and would have loved it in a short novel, but for eight hundred pages it was too much for me. Let s get this out of the way real quick because you ve heard it all already so damn many times not every book is for every reader This book is not for everyone This book is likely not for you If you think this book is for you or even if you think this book is not for you please do first check in with hyper talented reader and writer of uncontrolled prose, Herr MJ Because most likely this novel will not be for you You can read my Review too but it won t help much in deciding whether to read it or not You have likely already decided whether you will read this or not Most of you will have decided to not read it because you have never heard of it even though you ve never decided you still have made a choice to quote some Canadians At any rate, I ll quote some prose down below from this novel but do know that it is not exactly representational prose it is a bitdifficult dense than the rest but I m grinding a small ax with it and you should ignore it Let s get on with it.The only useful thing I m going to have to say here is of the classificationary stuff Let s get this out of the way too this novel is musical That adjective is as informative as the poetical prose descriptor Don t fall for it But listen How does one listen to music And I mean music I very much do not mean lyrics or songs but music When I say music I mean music, not popular culture products I mean music Do I have to spell this out Bach Mozart Beethoven Stravinsky Schoenberg AddYourJazzHere Zappa Notes Black notes on white paper peculiar vibrations of air in a room or across a meadow Vibrating strings and brass I do not mean Metal that s another question altogether What does meaning mean when you listen to music What is indicative of the postmodern condition is perhaps that people don t even know what this can mean because they immediately go to lyric sheets or stage costumes, ie, things that are not music What does musical meaning mean I know what it doesn t mean it doesn t mean translating music into non musical forms, it does not mean articulating its meaning in a language The meaning of music is of course itself articulated musically Maybe call and response is a good metaphor analogy here Ant any rate, when you listen to music you attempt to understand it, if you attempt to understand it at all, musically Please do not reduce a novel to a moral, to a message , to a thesis Please do not tell me that the Ninth is about the brotherhood of man sic , although it is that too And so back to that claim about how this novel is musical It s not melodic, which is maybe what we mean when we say Gass prose is musical It is not rhythmic, as we might say of Stein s It is not harmonious as we might say of the late Joyce So then what the do you mean It s musical but it doesn t fall under any of the three primary features of music tf I touched on this once in my Review of Larva A Midsummer Night s Babel If you find the prose in this novel difficult , you are reading it wrong.So this is what I don t get I get it that like me after a day s work etc etc a person is exhausted, mentally and emotionally and physically and resigning the convenience of Television, Said Person may want to pick up a book to relax And therefore naturally Said Person doesn t want to read something difficult, but something composed of conventional sentences, characters, plot The thing I don t get is, Why do you want to go through all the work of following characters, projecting yourself into their inner lives, etc etc etc, keeping the trail of a PLOT, etc etc etc it seems like an awful lot of mental and emotional work, when all Said Person wants to do is relax If you are working you re not reading.There are a few other novels that are like this many I m sure Top of the line of course is Miss MacIntosh My Darling, that legendary wall of text The popular one is Danielewski s Only Revolutions read it as music he told me when I confessed I d given up without finishing it Read it as music Don t try to interpret This should be an emancipatory claim Don t try to convert X into Y that s something for the algebra classroom Don t try to construct character Refuse to follow the plot Seriously, let the words do their own work Don t allow the author to foist his demands upon you that you write your own damn novel I mean, if you really want to and why wouldn t you read it again and take notes Begin to annotate Trace patterns Take note of echoes and recurrences Adore the familiar and shirk the un How do you listen to is never poetry Prose is never music music is the best But allow the metaphor to inform your listening In which an ax is ground we ll take it to the kettle drum on another day So famously there s a chapter in Moore s Jerusalem which is Wakean It is But my claim is that it is very weak Wakese It is a literalist schoolboy Wake ism It s funny and punny but misses the element of the syntax which best characterizes the Wakean sentence In Witz we have a truer example of Wakese Jerusalem, beginning of Round the Bend 884 Awake, Lucia gets up wi the wry sing of de light She is a puzzle, shore enearth, as all the Nurzis and the D actors would afform, but nibber a cross word these days, deepindig on her mendication and on every workin grimpill s progress Her arouse from drowse is like a Spring, a babboling book that gorgles up amist the soils o sleep, flishing and glattering, to mate the mournin son Fine enough Even de light full But nothing particularly difficult The syntax is standard English Every word phrase can be directly translated back into standard English and lose no meaning except for a single layer of punning Sure, your individual translations may differ as they always do, but it s not only possible, it s compulsory You simply can t resist, as you read this, turning it into totally straight English Slapping the pun off the surface, making it speak plainly, stop hiding your meaning You tease I told you so You can t hide from me Awake, Lucia gets up with the rising of daylight Not much lost And even if you take note of the nod to The Wake, music in wry sing and note the sunlight in de light there s not much beyond that Ambiguity goes out the window.Witz, Punchlines , beginning last chapter p784 And this is where it all ends America with me Joseph ben you don t know him numbered much like God I don t need a last name with everyone now ignoring enough of these noof these recreations noredactions reinterpretations reinventions revisions these stories resorted then shuffled restored and then footnoted endnoted gorged upon gore how I m tired London so tired I m Amsterdamned Avenue dead soon enough tired it s funny like ha ha funny is here enough genug of these nolives how I m Big in Yisgadal Ben vyiskadah and the shemay of the gables rabah the East River canals like Venice the Ghettolocked Venezeia I imagined shy but cold in an irongray windyday I mean, so of course there s the lack of punctuation, a few Yiddish words, a few nonstandard compound words, but pretty much every word is pretty much standard English, very little punny or multi valency I call it Wakese but you might feellike the Molly stream o con, tempted by that initial me But I suspect that the SoC claim would fail if we start to ask about whose consciousness this is That s probably not made clear in the quoted passage, but was my overwhelming impression If it is a consciousness, it is not a single individual s Again, the quoted selection may not overwhelm you with my claim, but you at least get a peek into how here is not standard English syntax, grammar And much of the novel reads like a refusal to conform to English speech patterns, this final section taking it further to the extreme.Again, music Read the novel as music Don t fight it And of course don t read it if it s not for you You probably get thousands of novels year pub d for you But if this novel is for you delight in it but above all, relax, don t worry, have a homebrew forgive any infelicite mistypings
Joshua Aaron Cohen born September 6, 1980 in New Jersey is an American novelist and writer of stories.
- 817 pages
- Joshua Cohen
- 24 September 2019 Joshua Cohen