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Cluster index: Paul Cohen

Words and lies.

Paul Cohen: ‘The Liar’s Dictionary is not just a showcase for its author’s linguistic ingenuity. Its affecting characterizations, its absorbing plot, and even its vivid evocation of the largely forgotten but deadly 1899 explosion at Barking have much to offer the reader.’

Theodora’s complaint.

Paul Cohen: ‘Here is the paradox at the root of Judæo-Christian-Islamic iconoclasm. God may make a human image, but man must not. The ambitions of artists push them to join, or even compete with, God as a creator, but one of the most fundamental Commandments of the faiths—right up there with “Thou shalt not kill”—forbids it.’

The latest event in the history of the novel.

Paul Cohen: ‘A central concept of postmodern literary theory is intertextuality: a recognition of the highly complex relationships among literary works. One could consider Remainder to be the emblematic novel of the age of intertextuality.’

‘A greater writer than in fact he ever became…’?

Paul Cohen: ‘In our increasingly specialized world, where the sum of human knowledge has grown so prodigiously, our polymaths no longer have the range of Leonardo da Vinci, Athanasius Kircher, and Benjamin Franklin. We still, however, find the occasional figure such as semiotician-anthropologist-novelist Umberto Eco, chemist-novelist-playwright Carl Djerassi, and painter-writer-composer Tom Phillips. Gourmont, though, was not only one of these, but also a man who deliberately abandoned intellectual consistency for the excitement of the free play of ideas.’

A pataphysical education.

Paul Cohen: ”Pataphysics presents a challenge to reality, most characteristically, though not always, carried out through humor. Unfortunately, as Andrew Hugill notes in his new book on the subject, “the word is often used quite loosely to invoke anything that seems wacky, weird, or bizarrely incomprehensible,” much as the word “surreal” is often used to refer to anything strange.’