Life's Tumultuous Party Cover

“Parties are my library,” says notorious party-crasher, Lower East Side denizen, and exuberantly idiosyncratic prose stylist Marvin Cohen. In this surrealistic suite of stories, dialogues and other party-dances, Cohen dissects party-going as both celebrant and philosopher, “romping in the wildness and mystery of parties” and finding there the “pulse and throb and beat” of our individual and collective natures. Edited and introduced by Colin Myers.


“Marvin Cohen’s Life’s Tumultuous Party is an insightful, imaginative, and fun exploration of parties told by a connoisseur who’s also a genuine authority. Approaching a rarely explored topic as both passionate participant and cultural critic, Cohen turns social gatherings into laboratories of interpersonal interaction and libraries of the human psyche. The prose dances as though across a ballroom’s parquet; and the structure proves as exciting as any Mardi Gras masquerade. Cohen’s collection does for parties what Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities does for architecture. So skip the party, bail on your evening plans, cancel your date, and read this book!”

—Jacob M. Appel, author of Millard Salter’s Last Day

“Marvin Cohen is a divine erratic, an American eccentric, a talker, a monologuist, an adroit practitioner of the rhetorical device of amplification, a party prophet, a seer, and wit. He is the Walt Whitman or Henry Miller of parties. He excels at the whimsical elaboration of small things. He is a master of the shortest of forms, the sentence—sentences, not difficult in meaning, yet difficult in their memory draw, their rhythmic deferrals, their artfully prolonged sinusoid articulations. Over and over, the awe-struck reader inwardly exclaims: Good Lord! You can really do that with a sentence!”

—Douglas Glover, author of The Erotics of Restraint: Essays on Literary Form

“What the Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti deconstructed about multiple gatherings in his brilliant Crowds and Power, Marvin Cohen does with laughs for party-goers in his definitive Life’s Tumultuous Party. Cohen—a literary treasure at 88, the very last of the Beats—is overdue for his Nobel.”

—Paul Theroux

“You are hereby invited to Marvin Cohen’s partycycle. Editor Colin Myers has gathered a rich and varied guest list: welcoming hosts and sought-for hostesses, best-mannered gentlemen, art snobs, future spouses, past lovers, musicians, sun-eclipsers, unwilling brothers, cordial neighbors, mobs of strangers passing other strangers, the list goes on and on. But the real party here is Cohen’s artfulness: sly, deadpan, dramatic, melancholic, metaphoric, existential—wandering this grand party room by room, observing encounters of love, attraction, merriment, mystery, loneliness, despair. It’s an overflowing buffet magnificently set, offering something for all attendees. So dig in—you’ll want more than one helping.”

—Joseph Salvatore, author of To Assume a Pleasing Shape

“Once you start reading Marvin Cohen, it’s very hard not to start thinking like him and then eventually talking like him, which can raise the eyebrows of your more conventional friends. His stream-of-consciousness paragraphs are like delicious Christmas puddings, as if Virginia Woolf had hired a wild group of Restoration writers like Sheridan and Congreve to make her desserts for her. All paragraphs are served with a brandy-infused hard sauce of cold, blunt frankness. Unforgettable, and you’ll beg for more.”

—Wallace Shawn

“Shameless socialite and inveterate schmoozer Marvin Cohen returns with a series of paeans to living, loving and partygoing…. Each tale here has Marv’s trademark Marvellousness, his precision for off-kilter metaphors and non sequiturs, and warm-hearted joie de vivre. The collection ends with an interview by Justine de Lacy from 1980, a fitting snapshot of the man whose incorrigible personality is hewn through every charming clause in this essential new collection.”

—M.J. Nicholls, in Goodreads

Marvin Cohen is the author of numerous novels, plays, and collections of short pieces, including The Self-Devoted Friend, Others, Including Morstive Sternbump, and Baseball as Metaphysics. He lives in New York City.

pub date: 2020-05-01
$22.00 | 234 pages
isbn: 978-1-944697-87-7 (paperback)
Cover design by Royce M. Becker