Vox Tablet

End of the World

Novelists Gary Shteyngart and Joshua Cohen discuss their dark visions of the future

July 27, 2010
(Peter Bagge)

(Peter Bagge)

This week, Vox Tablet invites listeners to consider some unconventional summer reading. Gary Shteyngart and Joshua Cohen have both come out with new novels that paint a very dark picture of the future. InSuper Sad True Love Story, Shteyngart envisions a not-so-distant world in which the United States is a crumbling, militarized empire, public and private life are indistinguishable and projected for all to see through social networking technologies, and the reading of books is a lost art. In Cohen’s novel Witz, a mysterious plague has claimed the lives of all but one of the world’s Jews, and that last Jew, Benjamin Israelien, is subject to the passions of a public that is equal parts philo- and anti-Semitic.

The novelists take their dystopian visions in radically different directions—Shteyngart has written a fast-moving love story, while Cohen’s is more stream-of-Jewish-consciousness, dense with wordplay and religious and cultural references. Tablet Magazine Editor-in-Chief Alana Newhouse sat down with the two of them for a sometimes bookish, other times bawdy, conversation over drinks and smoked fish, on a sweltering summer day on the boardwalk of Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach.

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Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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