Witz by Joshua Cohen (Review)

October 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Here is going to be me writing my thoughts in a “review” of Witz by Joshua Cohen.

The language. Movement, with words similarlying other words close to gathering and happening into each other. Wordcollisions ala Finnegans Wake. Alliteration ala Gass. Allusionrich as G’s Rainbow. You’ve heard all this. This book was called Witz by Joshua Cohen. (Why?) The language is movement and often so playful it is often so difficult to grasp cruxes. Sheesh, this Yiddish! Does it work? Many sentences struck me as very brilliantly constructed, but the hurriedness of it all, the jokes that fell flat, stick in my mind as well. It’s as if, I felt, the reader is simply to ride the wave, that the details, don’t focus for too long, for too many lungs. A lot of it is it is very repetitive very (mensch for men, over and over, and over (again (hymn for hmm (?), over and over, (again))) and the allusions begin to fall into the background of the thing and contribute to the texture of the prose more than poke the intellectual curiosity of me, this reader. Like going to church to listen to the choir.

On allusions. So what. So they are there. So what. Gorgeous clever. Does it ever transcend clever? The importance of foreskin and its coming off of it: Well, sir, isn’t circumcision really the one real Jewish practice that has moved beyond it and become popular, sir, a thing most Christians do now? I’m sitting here writing this not Jewish and snipped. So what. So I make connections like these or I don’t. Who cares. The importance of re-birth! The important of religionspeak! The importance of something! Etc! How many times do you listen to a song before realizing what the lyrics of the song are about. Lazy listener. Listen and pay attention to the words of the song dammit!

A plot summary is at wikipedia including a half-assed ending (He turns into a cow? He turns into a woman? Santa Clause? Holy moly!) Read that it you want. That’s basically it.

So is Cohen just an arrogant futz? I felt a lot while reading (w)it(z) that man, this guy is antagonistically daring me to read this whole fucker. And you get closer and closer to the end and he hits you with the seventh like a pan in the forehead. Don’t even try to finish it. If you do, don’t even try to review it or have a coherent, a Cohenent conversation with someone about it. Jokes on you mthafcka for bothering. This book might be about this thing singular: Cohen declaring himself God.

The thing is this book is either a massive joke or a joke of massive greatness. Who knows. I don’t know if it moves far enough beyond Cohen’s own solipsistic intentions to last. Or maybe that’s the point? I’ve thought too much about all this really and am ready to move on and read a book I’ve been putting off called Tristram Shandy. The end.

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§ One Response to Witz by Joshua Cohen (Review)

  • suchaswitch says:

    i abjectijust went-and-got all the cohen i could handle (like, last week, means me), and i appreciate your foreboding preference for an older else, of course. and this post-rabbinic blahblah, yes, yet has not earned an eminence worthy of any literary eon. But I swooned at his style, thought he’s so smart, has superlative politics, unafraid to alliterate or push prosody, is not so thick as Effing Finegan’s Wake (opines this frazzled porcupine). Maybe indeed there are other better ambles, but most of my since-this-summer peruse of today’s supplicants to the muse (i confess i’m new) has sat sad. I scorn the flat-or-thick prose post-Dahlberg, see nothing dynamic. I hate this all-or-none. Philip glass I fall asleep, Stravinsky and I cannot concentrate. but cheers, darbs, tell us bout tristram when you’re done!

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