The Hypothetical Girl

Elizabeth Cohen. Other Press, $14.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-59051-582-2
Through the “tangle of wires and laser signals” of the Internet, the characters in this first collection of stories from Cohen, author of the memoir The Family on Beartown Road, explore the frontiers of online romance, “where no human foot could tread.” In “Death by Free Verse,” Myra, a poet, engages in an e-mail flirtation written in limericks with a world-traveling man until she breaks form with a free verse love poem that is met with a mysterious silence. A wealthy 31-year-old Icelandic yak farmer and a 23-year-old model and aspiring poet meet on Catch.com, in “People Who Live Far, Far Away,” only to discover each has something to hide. And in the title story, a woman believes she is vanishing after a man online tells her she’s hypothetical. With desperation or ambivalence, obsession or just plain hope, Cohen’s characters navigate the mysterious etiquette of digital-age romance, often getting lost in the fever of a potential idyllic relationship that falters by the first date. Though many of these stories parallel each other and occasionally slip into bitter, cynical narratives, Cohen is at her best when she departs from conventional romantic comedy plots and explores what we think about when we anticipate love. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/06/2013
Release date: 08/06/2013
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