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Head Case by Cole Cohen

Head Case


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Cole Cohen, on your first book!

by Cole Cohen

Quick take

What’s funny about having a hole in your brain the size of a lemon? Not much, one supposes.

Why I love it

What's funny about having a hole in your brain the size of a lemon? Not much, one supposes. That is, not until you read Cole Cohen's brave, brilliant, and bitingly funny memoir Head Case: My Brain and Other Wonders.

At age 26, Cohen cannot judge distance, time or space; is undone by the simplest math equation; and cannot shop in a grocery store without getting lost. Although she has seen dozens of psychologists, speech pathologists, and therapists since childhood, no one has figured out why everyday tasks elude Cohen and why leaving the front door of her house terrifies her. That is, until an intrepid neurologist finally locates a hole in the writer's parietal lobe that she describes as "about the size of a lemon." Suddenly, her whole existence begins to make sense.

As she retraces her life from birth to the present, about five years after her diagnosis, we are treated to a vivid voice that is defiantly unsentimental and daringly original. Words, which failed her for much of her life, empower Cohen as an author. Whether describing the angst of her first relationship, attending college and graduate school, or trying valiantly to hold down a job, Cohen conveys her experiences with the acerbic timing of Gore Vidal. About her endlessly patient parents, she writes: "My mother is a librarian and my dad is a philosophy professor; I am their longest-running joint research project."

I'll admit I approached this debut work with a tinge of caution. First, I'm a tad squeamish about gray matter. (The 1983 Steve Martin comedy, "The Man With Two Brains," haunted me for years). And after over-indulging on 90s memoirs about every dysfunction from alcoholism and gambling to food addiction and pyromania, I’ve become a skeptic when a book touts "a never-before-heard story." However, I’m glad I took this thoughtful, fearless, inspiring, and, yes, never-before-heard journey with Cohen, a journey I hope you will take as well.

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