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October 17, 2013

PSU assistant professor's book earns Oprah pick

PLATTSBURGH — One of Elizabeth Cohen’s books is now an Oprah selection.

But she hopes people will think about its message and not just the famous endorsement.

“The Hypothetical Girl,” a collection of short stories, explores romantic relationships in the digital age, using the theme as a way to ask deeper and wider questions.

“Think of how many people know each other only through screen and keyboard,” said Cohen, who is an assistant professor of English at SUNY Plattsburgh. “We would call it fantasy, but for an increasing number of people, it’s their main gig, and this — reality — is the sideline.”

That led to what Cohen refers to as the “core question” of her book. 

“Is reality this?” she asked, gesturing at the room around her, and more broadly, at the physical world. “Or is it the screen and the keyboard?”

Cohen describes the book as “15 stories about people who meet, fall in love or don’t fall in love, and sometimes have scary experiences on the Internet.”

Although the stories concern couples and potential couples, only in one story do the people meet in real life. And that story, Cohen said, plays with the idea that such a meeting “might be an antiquated notion.”

SURPRISED BY SELECTION

The book was chosen as an Oprah Winfrey Summer Must-Read — the first on the list. It is also an Oprah Book of the Week on her Fall Reading list. 

Ironically, Cohen found out about the selection online.

One day, she saw a series of mysterious messages on Facebook.

“Everyone was congratulating me, and no one said why,” she recalled with a laugh.

She emailed a close friend, who responded by sending her the link to the Oprah.com review.

BOOK OF POETRY

A versatile writer, Cohen also has a newly published book of poetry entitled “What The Trees Said.” 

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