Thursday, March 28, 2013

Deborah Cohen

Deborah Cohen was educated at Harvard (BA) and Berkeley (Ph.D.). She is Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Humanities and Professor of History at Northwestern University. She is the author of three books: The War Come Home (2001), Household Gods: The British and their Possessions (2006), and the newly released Family Secrets: Shame and Privacy in Modern Britain (2013).

Earlier this month I asked Cohen about what she was reading.  Her reply:
I’m on sabbatical and between books, so plumbing the depths of disorganized reading. I’m spending some part of the day idling in travelers’ accounts of the nineteenth-century Argentine and more of it re-reading Agatha Christie’s greatest hits in order to figure out what people in Peoria (or Bremen) loved about her.

Amidst it all, though, there’s one book I keep coming back to: Lisa Cohen (no relation!)’s All We Know: Three Lives, published by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux in 2012. It’s the sort of writerly foray that expands the bounds of what non-fiction can accomplish. The book comprises three intertwined biographical essays about women who lived modernism in the 1920s and 1930s: the New York intellectual, Esther Murphy; Mercedes de Acosta, fan among fans; and Madge Garland, style pioneer and for a time, fashion editor of British Vogue. All We Know is a book about the meanings of failure and success and about the lessons we take away when we tot up an existence. Most importantly, it is a stirring and very stylish salute to the profundity of style.
Visit Deborah Cohen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue