Say this about Dave Cowen’s new book THIS BOOK IS THE LONGEST SENTENCE EVER WRITTEN AND THEN PUBLISHED: It’s very committed to the bit. Cowen is a humor writer, who’s been published in The New Yorker and has written themed Passover Haggadahs, based on both Donald Trump and Seinfeld, and an unpublished screenplay about America’s gun plight. Faced with a multiple personal crises, Cowen decided to write an experimental book: It’s 345 pages, and is written as a single run-on sentence, aimed at setting the titular record for the longest sentence of all time. It draws on James Joyce and William Faulkner, as well as more obscure authors who have given a go at extremely long sentences.
In that long sentence, Cowen’s got a lot of things to talk about, from long asides about Trump and Kanye West, to his own struggles with both bipolar disorder and the death by suicide of his father. There’s also much discussion of complicated feelings about Jeff Bezos and Amazon, the platform on which the book has been published. In THIS BOOK IS THE LONGEST SENTENCE EVER WRITTEN AND THEN PUBLISHED, there’s also a great deal of commentary by Cowen on his own writing career, certain failed projects, and even whole past pieces of his, reproduced at or near in full. He also discusses his complex relationship with The New Yorker, but feels insecure about not having been published there more than he has. But in many other places, the book is about… the book itself.
Cowen has a lot to say about the project, what it means for his career and his self-image as a writer, and even a running commentary about how close he is to breaking the record at any given time. At one point, he thinks he’s got it, before learning of the existence of another book/sentence of which he’d previously been unaware. The book, as Cowen himself would likely admit, places a lot of commas and colons in places where periods would normally go, and each sentence ends with a colon or semi-colon rather than a period. One gets the sense, at times, that Cowen has used this project as a place to put virtually every thought he’s ever had about anything.
Still, much of the material is poignant, and even heartbreaking, especially the parts in which deals with his father’s death, and the way he dealt with it by, yes, writing his way through it. Give the author credit for setting a goal- however esoteric a goal it was- and accomplishing it.
Dave Cowen’s book, THIS BOOK IS THE LONGEST SENTENCE EVER WRITTEN AND THEN PUBLISHED, in which he spends over 300 pages writing a single sentence, is certainly uneven- how could it not be?- but it deserves credit for maintaining commitment to its gimmick.
~Stephen Silver, for IndieReader