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The Varieties of Romantic Experience: Storiesby Robert Cohen
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"[An] introspective and illuminating [collection] in which [Cohen] sidesteps the usual cliches of his subject with a wide array of intriguing and unusual situations. The hilarious title story is a perfect example....Most of the stories revolve around cleverly formulated premises, but Cohen also demonstrates a deft sense of control over narrative voice, and his dry, sardonic sense of humor serves him well throughout." Publishers Weekly
"Charming...with the perfect pitch of Chekhov satire...Cohen can extend a series of metaphors like taffy." Ken Kalfus, New York Times Book Review
"The formidable comic energy of Robert Cohen's new short-story collection derives from the collision of his magnificently self-deceiving characters with the unforgiving world they inhabit....Cohen balances this robust black comedy with moments of quietly profound feeling." Stephen Amidon, Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
About the Author
Robert Cohen is the author of three novels, The Organ Builder, The Here and Now, and Inspired Sleep. His work has been awarded a Whiting Writers' Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers Award, The Ribalow Prize, and The Pushcart Prize, and has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Harpers, GQ, The Paris Review, Atlantic Unbound, and Ploughshares. He teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Table of Contents
The Next Big Thing
The Varieties of Romantic Experience: An Introduction
Points of Interest
The Bachelor Party
A Flight of Sparks
The Boys at Night
What Our Readers Are Saying