Saturday, August 8, 2009

Amy Cohen

Amy Cohen was a writer/producer on the sitcoms Caroline in the City and Spin City, a dating columnist for the New York Observer, and the dating correspondent for cable TV's New York Central.

In 2007 she published her acclaimed memoir, The Late Bloomer's Revolution.

Late last month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
As you'll see, I'm a very promiscuous reader. There's a lot of bouncing from books to screenplays to audio books based on my mood and whatever I'm working on.

I just started The Believers by Zoe Heller. I love her writing. Notes on a Scandal is one of my favorite books. I love Barbara's character -- she's so twisted and predatory and incredibly funny. As I was reading it, I kept thinking how much fun it must have been to write her with all her spot on, delicious bitchiness.

Before that, I finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which I've recommended to every woman in my family (my sister, my Aunt, my niece). A terrific story about women in the segregated south in the 60's (two housekeepers and the woman intent on writing their stories) with immensely likable characters.

Before that I read The Easter Parade by Richard Yates. He's one of my favorite writers, but the book is a rough, sobering tale that some might even call "so depressing I wanted to curl up into a ball afterwards." Others might just say, "Oy, I could use a drink after reading that." Like so much of his work, it's about people (in this case two sisters) who want things so desperately it aches, but ultimately don't get what they're looking for. But like all of his rough, sobering writing (Eleven Kinds of Loneliness and Revolutionary Road), he's always worth it.

Whenever I'm feeling very stressed, I always love reading Stephen King. So when my friends saw me with Cujo, they wanted to give me a hug. Recently I read all eleven hundred plus pages of The Stand, which is about a rapidly mutating virus that wipes out most of the world's population -- but it's really more about the characters (at least the first half is). That's what people who haven't read Stephen King don't get -- they think it's all horror, but his characters are terrific and so well drawn. I got into all the descriptions of the post apocalyptic world, which felt very Mad Max. Reading it, I kept thinking of Jose Saramago's Blindness, which is about a different contagious epidemic -- this one causing blindness. It's interesting to see how two such different writers treat the ideas of disease and fear and anarchy and good versus evil as it applies to human nature (you know, just those small topics).

I also read my friend Sarah Dunn's book, Secrets To Happiness, which is incredibly sharp and made me laugh out loud, which isn't easy to do.

For dialogue, I like to read screenplays. I recently re-read the screenplays for Knocked Up, Little Miss Sunshine, as well as Woody Allen's Stardust Memories.

I'm a big audio book person (I had the best time recording my own audio book), which I realize is sacrilege to some, but I'm thinking those "some" don't ride the NYC subways. I love me a good audio book. Rarely a week goes by when I don't listen to David Sedaris (I have Me Talk Pretty One Day and Naked on my i-pod). Recently I listened to two memoirs: J.R. Moehringer's The Tender Bar (about a boy in search of a father figure who finds several in his local bar) and Ruth Reichl's Garlic And Sapphires (the one where she's a critic in disguise -- just don't listen to it hungry, because her descriptions of thai noodles will leave you salivating.) I enjoyed both books a lot. I'm also a huge fan of Dylan Baker reading Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. Lorrie Moore reading "You're Ugly Too" from her terrific collection of stories, Like Life. I love Lorrie Moore. She's so funny but also manages to punch you in the stomach on occasion. I always love listening to Meryl Streep, Blythe Danner and John Cheever reading The Collected Stories of John Cheever (his reading of "The Swimmer" is worth it alone -- he's got this great voice that evokes suburban scotch and cigarettes). But the greatest audio book has to be Jeremy Irons reading Lolita. I'd read it twice, but hearing him read it? The best.
Learn more about Amy Cohen and her book at her website and her MySpace page.

The Page 99 Test: The Late Bloomer's Revolution.

--Marshal Zeringue