Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan
Professor of English
Department of English & Philosophy
A looming bat mitzvah and a mother who believes she's the reincarnation of Shakespeare's Dark Lady cause no end of trouble for the suburban heroine of this corny but hilarious second novel by Cohen (Jane Austen in Boca). Carla Goodman of Cherry Hill, N.J., is saddled with a 12-year-old daughter, Stephanie, who seems to be in "a perpetual state of PMS," a 10-year-old son, Jeffrey, who is "on his way to becoming a fifth-grade delinquent," and a gastroenterologist husband who is having trouble maintaining a private practice. At the same time, Carla's widowed mother, Jessie, starts making references to mead and doublets, apparently remembering her former life as the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets. Cohen, who is developing a sparkling reputation for bringing the classics into contemporary fiction, paints in broad strokes but hits the mark with this domestic comedy. When Carla turns to renowned psychiatrist Dr. Leonard Samuels, famous for his bestselling How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love My Mother-in-Law, for advice, the humor escalates. Anyone-Jewish or not-who has ever attended a bat or bar mitzvah will find Cohen's take on the preparations and planning for this rite of passage spot on. By the end of this thoroughly entertaining romp, the author convincingly resolves all of Carla's family dilemmas with large doses of humor and heart. Agent, Felicia Eth. (May) Forecast: Few writers aim so directly-and successfully-at the AARP set. Cohen has already reaped the rewards (one online reader reports she gave Jane Austen in Boca to her grandmother, who passed it on to six others in her assisted living community), and sales should be correspondingly strong for this second novel.
About Dr. Cohen
Paula Marantz Cohen, Distinguished Professor of English, received her BA in English and French from Yale University and her Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. She is the author of six books and numerous essays on literature, film, and culture. Her scholarly books are The Daughter as Reader, The Daughter's Dilemma, Alfred Hitchcock: the Legacy of Victorianism, Silent Film and the Triumph of the American Myth; her novels are Jane Austen in Boca; Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan; and Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs. Her most recent academic book, Silent Film and the Triumph of the American Myth (Oxford UP), was selected as a Choice Outstanding Book for 2003.
Her first novel, Jane Austen in Boca (St. Martin's Press), was a Literary Guild/Book of the Month Club Featured Alternate and a Page-Turner of the Week in People Magazine. She has articles and stories in many journals, including Yale Review, Boulevard, Iowa Review, Raritan, The American Scholar, and The Hudson Review. She is the Co-Editor of the Journal of Modern Literature and a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement. She is the recipient of the Lindback Teaching Award.