Book Launch / “The Virtual Sentence,” with Jeff Dolven, Heidi Julavits, Tom McCarthy, Kathryn Murphy, and Aaron Schuster

Date: Saturday, 11 May 2024, 5–7 pm
Location: Cabinet Berlin @ Fahrbereitschaft, Herzbergstrasse 40–43, Building 8.1, 1st floor up, 10365 Berlin-Lichtenberg (map and directions here)
FREE. Limited space. RSVP at and we will confirm if there is still room.

In 2020, Cabinet held a discussion in Berlin on the “Virtual Sentence,” in which a distinguished group of humans proposed exercises for keeping our species-powers of linguistic invention a step ahead of ChatGPT. GPT-2, the reigning large language model (LLM) at the time, was a comically amateur internet impersonator. The humans made a good showing that night.

Late last year, Cabinet published a book of those exercises, just in time to greet GPT-4. For this evening’s event, we have convened another remarkable collection of human talent to celebrate the book and to consider the situation of the sentence in 2024. Our writer-guests—Heidi Julavits, Tom McCarthy, Kathryn Murphy, and Aaron Schuster—will test the audience’s skill at analogue text prediction in a live face-off with faceless contenders from OpenAI, Anthropic, and Google. Jeff Dolven, the editor of The Virtual Sentence, will frame the proceedings with a discussion of the role of prediction in the natural intelligence of the writer’s mind.

About the Participants

Jeff Dolven is a poet, professor of English at Princeton University, and editor-at-large at Cabinet magazine. He is the author of Senses of Style (Chicago University Press, 2018), *A New English Grammar (Dispersed Holdings, 2022), and the admittedly hasty Take Care (Cabinet Books, 2017), and the editor of The Virtual Sentence (Cabinet Books, 2024).

Heidi Julavits is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction and writes for magazines on topics such as land art, avalanches, and volcanic eruptions. She’s a co-founder of The Believer magazine, a professor at Columbia University, and currently a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

Tom McCarthy is a novelist whose work has been translated into more than twenty languages and adapted for cinema, theater, and radio. His latest novel, The Making of Incarnation, was published in 2021 by Jonathan Cape (UK) and Alfred A. Knopf (USA), and in German as Der Dreh von Inkarnation by Suhrkamp in 2023. Born in Scotland, he is now a Swedish citizen and lives in Berlin.

Kathryn Murphy is an academic and critic at the University of Oxford, and currently a visiting fellow at echo, a research center at the Free University of Berlin. She has published on still-life painting, essays, impartiality, Czech fiction, quaintness, and the style of Renaissance philosophy. She is working on two books: Robert Burton: A Vital Melancholy and The Tottering Universal: Metaphysical Prose in the Seventeenth Century.

Aaron Schuster is a philosopher who has written on such topics as the history of pleasure, the philosophy of tickling, the theory of breakups, Bolshevik feminism, Ernst Lubitsch’s political comedy, and complaining. His book How to Research Like a Dog: Kafka’s New Science will be published later this year by the MIT Press. He is an editor-at-large at Cabinet magazine and editor of e-flux Notes.