Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sheila Kohler

Sheila Kohler was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She later lived in Paris for fifteen years, where she married, completed her undergraduate degree in Literature at the Sorbonne, and a graduate degree in Psychology at the Institut Catholique. She moved to the U.S. in 1981 and earned an MFA in Writing at Columbia. She currently teaches at Princeton University. Kohler's work has been featured in the New York Times, O Magazine and included in the Best American Short Stories. She has twice won an O’Henry Prize, as well as an Open Fiction Award, a Willa Cather Prize, and a Smart Family Foundation Prize. Her novel Cracks was nominated for an Impac Award, and has been made into a feature film to be distributed by IFC.

Kohler's new novel is Dreaming for Freud.

A few days ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Kohler's reply:
I have been rereading Freud's case histories for my novel which comes out this May and also for the classes I'm teaching this semester. The more I reread these five case histories: Dora, Little Hans, The Ratman; the Wolfman and the President Schreber the more skillful they seem to me. Freud, of course, was well-read and quotes often from Shakespeare, for example. Still his taste was conservative in literature as it was in art, and perhaps the influence of a mystery writer like Conan Doyle is prevalent here. He creates suspense and mystery from the start of each of these cases. What is wrong, we wonder with "Little Hans" for example, a lively five year old child who is suddenly terrified of horses.

The characters in these case histories are fascinating: the minor as well as the major ones. An example of a minor character is the seductive sister in the Wolfman case, who seduces him when he's a little boy. She is brilliant, writes poetry, and ultimately commits suicide by poison after a visit to Lermontov's grave.

I recommend all five of the case histories as excellent reading though one might conclude that our narrator, the Great Detective Dr. Freud, is a somewhat unreliable one.
Visit Sheila Kohler's website.

Writers Read: Sheila Kohler (December 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue