The Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen

The most exciting thing about this book is the writing. Cohen is an excellent stylist. This was a fun book to read on that level. There’s are really distinct voices throughout. The book is divided into three sections. The first and third section are from the point of view of Joshua Cohen, a frustrated writer going through a divorce. I am not very fond of this Joshua Cohen. I don’t think he’s very interesting. I think Joshua Cohen the author wants me to care about him a lot more than I do. How uninvested I am in Joshua Cohen the writer is probably my main issue with the book. I am willing to suffer through him because the writing is good and because he tells the story of the other Joshua Cohen, aka the Principle. The Principle is the founder/head of fake-google, and has hired the writer who shares his name to ghost write his memoir. This part of the book I really loved. It starts off as a draft of the memoir, full of notes, crossed out sections, and messy transitions. Cohen is working from an interview transcript, and as the section goes on it becomes rougher and rougher, until it’s just their conversation. The Principle has a really distinct fascinating way of talking, unique patterns that I really enjoyed. His story is interesting. Actual things happen with technology and business and people. The Principle is a very weird dude, with a very specific world view, and it made me care about him.

It’s sparkling dynamic writing. The whole time I was reading it, especially the middle section, my brain started trying to think in sentences like this, which was interesting. The experience of reading a book with a voice that’s so strong that it start seeping into the rest of your world is something really remarkable.

I loved the ways it was different. The biggest weaknesses were the things that felt familiar: the cold wife, the sex obsessed self obsessed writer, how it assumed I would get invested in a boring dude. But overlooking these frustrations it was a book that made exciting about writing, and about literature. It was a cool book that did cool weird things.


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