NATIVE STATE: A Memoir
Cohan (On Mexican Time) was about to begin another travel book when he got word that his 94-year-old father was in his "ninth inning." Reluctantly, Cohan went to California for the death vigil. He'd never particularly liked his father, Phil, who at his career height had produced and directed the Jimmy Durante Show for CBS Radio, and who had monopolized the family spotlight relentlessly. Poring over the family scrapbooks, his dad's "memory palace," Tony relived his California boyhood, remembering his first drums, his first girlfriend, his mother's alcoholic binges, his father's interminable name-dropping and self-aggrandizing, and his own escape, after college, to Europe in the early 1960s. A bebop and cool jazz drummer, young Cohan played with some of the great expatriate musicians, including Dexter Gordon and Bud Powell. He knew Paul Bowles in Tangiers, met William Burroughs in Paris and took a lot of drugs. Returning to California, he soon took off for a Zen-inspired stint in Japan, but made it back to the States in time to get into the Ravi Shankar–inspired Indian music craze, the Big Sur scene, the Haight's "summer of love" and even some sessions with Jim Morrison. Cohan intercuts his own story, chapter by chapter, with updates on his father, who's finally "entering a state of grace." Filled with "improbable affection" for the dying man, Cohan finds "the less of him there is, the easier it is to like him." While Cohan's disarmingly honest life story would be colorful enough on its own, his memoir is enriched by his setting it against the story of his coming to terms with his father. Agent, Bonnie Nadell. (Sept. 9)
Forecast:With the popularity of Cohan's last book and the publicity planned for this one—author tour, advertising and BEA promotion—this could be a breakthrough book for the author. It should appeal to both men and women, an unusual trait for a memoir.