The Varieties of Romantic Experience: Stories
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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 theirown 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.
irregularities on the stucco ceiling overhead—and in time, as I concentrated on them both, on my breathing and on the ceiling, both of these things came to seem related to each other, or at least related through me, part of some good soundless energy that was working through us all, the whole great revolving world and all its wayward bachelors. And though it was getting sort of cold on the floor, and the carpet smelled faintly of mold, I tuned that out as best I could. My skin under the overhead
yourself Sylvia. You saw it too says Sylvia. At the doctor's. That wasn't me Sylvia I say. That wasn't me. That was only this construction that wears my name. That was only this puppet of cartilage and bone that attends to the world while the real me cowers in dark rooms, wondering when the movie is going to start. I have no idea at all Sylvia what doctor you're talking about. What doctor? I haven't been to a doctor, oh, in a long, a long— Don't be silly she says. We looked at it together.
forehead, which is normally quite smooth. “Again?” “ Want . . .” I gurgle. Now Shorty and Kid are gurgling too. Babe, a slow learner, has just begun to cry. “Louder please, Mr. Statler.” “Want! Want!” Kai scratches the mole on his cheek with a trembling index finger. “Continue,” he says. “Want what?” “Want!” He studies me quietly, his eyes thoughtful. Maybe he's tired. Maybe I'm tired. “ Want . . .” I murmur for the last time, and then quite unexpectedly I fall asleep. Well, really,
merely neurotic by-products of loneliness, I don't know. Genetics, that merciless lottery, had awarded my mother the good looks and the romantic disposition; poor Millie, the younger sister, had been left the grudges, the shrewd temper, and the childbearing hips, but no child. Still, we weren't blind to the heroism of our aunt's cheerfulness. The sight of her basting a chicken for our dinner, her apron (brought up from Baltimore) tied neatly at the back of her neck, her plucked eyebrows knitted
into it that first night, standing there at the open window, looking out at the low, bumpy darkness of Jersey and listening to the night sounds well up through the foliage while Rennie went about her business, hanging up her swimsuit and playing back her messages and going through the mail, as though she were quite alone. Then at some point she seemed to recall why I was there; she lit a candle, and we made love, and afterwards she collapsed heavily into sleep, her hair still damp and smelling of