Rookie Report: Elizabeth Cohen
The Hypothetical Girl, stories
You want to believe in a future with the man. But the future is cloudy, like the lake that extends from your head now when you sleep is cloudy. You want to believe that love is strong. You want to believe. This is the part where you say you want to fix it, this thing of you. “Fix what?” he asks. “Nothing is broken.” You realize that you and the man are having completely different experiences. You and he are not in the same love affair but in two separate ones. It is a mere coincidence that they happen to be with each other.
an excerpt from “Love, Really”
LNL: Summarize your book in 10 words or fewer.
Elizabeth Cohen: Opera of crazy, beautiful, difficult and sometimes hilarious love songs.
LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?
Okay, it is complicated. So…Romeo and Juliet married Love in the Time of Cholera, but then they had some trouble conceiving so The Prince of Tides agreed to serve as a sperm donor. Then R&J had trouble carrying the child to term and luckily, so luckily, Emma (Jane Austen’s) agreed to be a surrogate. Voila! In other words, romantic love gets involved with magic realism here, and a bit of sleaze and class consciousness come to play.
LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?
Two cups of fresh ideas (preferably picked fresh from a local farm or overheard on a subway)
One cup existential angst (readily available during any trip to Walmart for school or cleaning supplies)
A half cup of Adirondack mountain air, inhaled with zest at dawn, despite bothersome mosquitoes Approximately four hundred cups of strong black coffee
One really great Apple computer and cushy chair
Dash of beauty (watching sleeping children is a good source, or walking dog on shore of Lake Champlain) Time (This is the hardest ingredient to find. Seems it is always running short. I hear they have a lot more in Europe)
Stir and bake for about a year. Sometimes much longer. Results may vary due to altitude or audience/reviewer taste. Serve up in a gorgeous cover by a publisher who actually really cares.
LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.
If I could read one book again for the first time, it would have to be Germinal by Emile Zola, which is, in my opinion, the best love story of all time, even though it doesn’t even come up as a love story if you Google “love stories,” which says a lot about Google, don’t you think?
LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.
Why write at all when your own daughter and a very important man in your life has made it very clear that TV and movies “are just better” and your own mother, may she rest in peace, thought your grammar was atrocious?
A: Write to prove them all wrong. Write to answer the most adorably sweet beautiful bird’s song. Write to get back at your enemies. Write to enchant small children. Write to make your sister laugh. Write because it is the only thing that gives you solace, except maybe for the feeling of swimming in really warm lapping turquoise seawater in a small cove in Thailand, knowing you will later stay up late and watch paper lit balloons float up over the horizon all night long.
Get a copy of The Hypothetical Girl from Indiebound
Elizabeth Cohen is an assistant professor of English at Plattsburgh State University. Her memoir, The Family on Beartown Road (Random House, 2003) was a New York Times Notable Book, and her articles, stories, and poetry have appeared in Newsweek, New York Times Magazine, Salon, Tablet, and the Yale Review.