Matt Cohen Jon Kertzer - Essay

Jon Kertzer

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Cohen's varied works all deal with similar problems which they attempt to solve in various but related ways. In each, the central character is a misfit, malcontent, or loser, the victim of his own faults and of circumstances beyond his control, who struggles with a question posed in The Disinherited: "how do you get to be alive?" Each character explicitly or implicitly tries to grasp and accept his chaotic life and, if possible, to master it by giving it shape and purpose. He has two tasks: to understand and to act. He must understand what his life means, what it is "to be alive," even though his experience seems so haphazard and painful. And he must act on that knowledge in order to "get" to be alive, to seize...

(The entire section is 1374 words.)