For years Robert Cohen has been praised by reviewers and readers alike for his masterful prose and his exuberant and penetrating comic vision. The New York Times has even called his writing redemptive -- so satisfying as to "remind readers why they continue to cast their lines into the shrinking lake of contemporary fiction...his prose is not merely gorgeous, it's also terrifically funny; his humor is the ghastly variety embedded in everyday life." Now, the critically acclaimed and bestselling author of Inspired Sleep delivers a collection of ten dazzling stories that not only show off Cohen's exhilarating prose and startling ironic humor but also provide a platform for his virtuoso range of tone and style and his ongoing investigation of the hazy, bedraggled American sensibility. In "Oscillations," a man verbally paralyzed by his obsession with language retreats to a special institute, where he will relearn the art of communication. "Points of Interest" is an ingenious and timely exploration of the boundaries between life and art, as told through the revolving -- and dizzyingly revealing -- perspectives of its three self-absorbed protagonists. The title story features a hilariously out-of-touch psychology professor whose introductory lecture becomes an inadvertent confession of his own long, disastrous career of sexual mistakes. And in the more somber, moving "The Boys at Night," a suburban teenager, on the fringes of a family crisis, makes his first tentative forays into maturity, discovering how accidents at once reveal, imperil, and sustain us. In each of these stories, the characters must wrestle with the slippery, invisible curtain between the world and their own fevered misapprehensions of it. What results is the urgently serious comedy we call Romanticism -- the yearning of the mind for contact with the actual, which is always receding from view. That these characters' desires and anxieties are familiar to us is the second thing we realize upon reading these stories. The first is how much we're laughing.
Robert Cohen is the author of three previous novels, The Organ Builder, The Here and Now, and Inspired Sleep, and a collection of short stories. Winner of a Lila Atcheston Wallace -Reader's Digest Writers Award, the Ribalow Prize, The Pushcart Prize, and a Whiting Award, he has published short fiction in a variety of publications -- including Harpers, GQ, The Paris Review and Ploughshares. He has taught at the Iowa Writers Workshop, Harvard University, and Middlebury College. He lives in Vermont.
Publisher: Scribner (March 25, 2002)
Length: 224 pages
San Francisco Chronicle Cohen reveals the perilous depths hidden beneath ordinary life, the sudden yearnings that move us...and he accomplishes this with brilliance, precision, and humor.
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