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Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in Atlantic City. He has written novels (Book of Numbers), short fiction (Four New Messages), and nonfiction for The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, London Review of Books, The Forward, n+1, and others. In 2017 he was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists. He lives in New York City.
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE:When did you start dreaming up The Book of Numbers?
JOSHUA COHEN: The earliest Word doc dates to 2008, which means the earliest (handwritten) notebook would be circa 2007. Thank you Microsoft, thank you Apple, thank you Mead.
SIG: This eponymously named protagonist – what was your intention with naming him after yourself?
JC: My hope was to get at some truth, or some succedaneum for truth, underlying the notion of “identity,” as that’s been constituted both onscreen and off. Who are we in real life? Who are we online? And how do those two personas jibe, no question mark.
PRH:Who do you think is currently the most terrifying person in technology?
JC: Me, myself, I.
PRH: What’s the one thing technology can’t (as far as we know) do (yet) that you sorely wish it could?
JC: Write my books for me.
PRH: What books are on your nightstand?
JC: I don’t have a nightstand, I just have a mattress, and the mattress is on the floor. As for what’s on the floor: Looking at Pictures, a collection of Robert Walser’s art writing; Words Without Music, Philip Glass’s memoir; Joseph Roth, The Hotel Years; Clarice Lispector, The Complete Stories, and a volume of Talmud (Kiddushin 36A).
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