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Inspired Sleep: A Novel Paperback – January 22, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First edition. edition (January 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375718877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375718878
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,141,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Intelligent, funny, energetically characterized and provocative about some timely issues, Cohen's second novel (after The Here and Now) would be a perfect read except for his tendency to overload the narrative with scenes that go on too long and his need to chart every nuance of his major characters' self-destruction. Bonnie Saks is a contemporary everywoman: at 39, she's divorced and raising two nice kids, albeit with meager resources, while teaching expository writing and trying to finish her dissertation. Smart, witty (she exudes "a penumbra of irony") and a fond (if impatient) motherA scenes with her sons are especially goodA Bonnie is an engaging, if sometimes irritatingly mercurial, character. After she discovers she's pregnant by a man she despises and decides against abortion, Bonnie's chronic insomnia becomes acute sleep deprivation. In a series of cleverly handled developments, she comes into the orbit of Ian Ogelvie, a brilliant but lonely, shy and nerdy sleep researcher at a Boston hospital, who is engaging in experiments with a new drug that may cure sleep disorders. As the reader soon learns, Ian is the only honest, innocent member of the research team; everyone else involved is unscrupulous and self-serving. Cohen is at his best here, sketching the sub-rosa ties between academic research, pharmaceutical companies, managed care and the business world with exuberant satire. Unaware of the general chicanery, Ian enlists Bonnie in the program, with disastrous results. Cohen's text often zings true with riffs on contemporary life, and, despite a few longueurs, he succeeds in intertwining vibrant secondary characters and several plot lines into a suspenseful narrative. This will be a word-of-mouth book among discriminating readers. (Jan. 8)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Abandoned by her husband and facing an unfinished dissertation, insomniac Bonnie Saks signs up for a questionable sleep-study program in this third novel from a prize-winning author.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Robert Cohen is the author of three previous novels, The Organ Builder, The Here and Now, and Inspired Sleep, and a collection of short stories. Winner of a Lila Atcheston Wallace -Reader's Digest Writers Award, the Ribalow Prize, The Pushcart Prize, and a Whiting Award, he has published short fiction in a variety of publications -- including Harpers, GQ, The Paris Review and Ploughshares. He has taught at the Iowa Writers Workshop, Harvard University, and Middlebury College. He lives in Vermont.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By John Luiz on January 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Robert Cohen has won numerous awards, and I can't quite understand why his
name and sales don't rank right up there with other contemporary writers
like Michael Chabon and Tom Perrotta. In INSPIRED SLEEP, Cohen examines the
public's dependence on/love affair with prescription drugs such as
anti-depressants. Chapters rotate between the perspective of two main
characters --Bonnie Saks, a divorced mother of two, and Ian Ogelvie, a
psychiatrist/researcher on a project designed to enhance REM sleep and
thereby elevate the subject's mood. Saks is an insomniac who becomes a
subject in Ogelvie's study at "Boston General" hospital. The novel explores
a lot of big issues -- such as the way today's medical researchers are in
bed with big pharma -- and all the room for corruption/lapses of ethics that
can create. The book also looks at the potential impact of placebos,
explained in detail by Ian as expectancy theory -- the idea that merely
wanting something to come true can bring about its fruition. It's
fascinating to watch the varied perspectives -- Bonnie's a cynic, who is
depressed about her life -- and Ian is an idealist, who has complete faith
in the medical model, believing that one day medicine can find a
drug-related cure for every human ailment -- emotional and physical. As much
as this book will get you thinking, though, the greatest joy comes from the
way Cohen writes. He drafts some of the most beautiful sentences I've ever
read. If you like this one, go back and read The Here and Now and The Organ
Builder. Both are terrific reads as well.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. Asali on March 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I read this lovely book on vacation and was, as a result, a little dubious of its true merit. After all, what isn't a great book when you are on the beach reading it? However, I reread it in my own habitat and am convinved that Robert Cohen is on to something. Bonnie is neither cute nor evil. She is frustrated, disappointed, and anxious about her children, her unplanned pregnancy, her husband's flaky departure to South America and all the other imperfect aspects of her life in Cambridge. On top of all this, she can't get to sleep. She thinks everything else would recede in importance if only she could get 40 winks.
Ian Ogelvie is the quintessential academic rising star. Fellowships and grants have rained down upon him since he started school and now, facing 30, he is on the brink of a pharmaceutical breakthrough that could seal his fate...and save Bonnie's neck. So, Cohen has them meet and the results are insightful, funny, critical, and real. It is neither love story nor thriller. It is merely the story of a handful of characters whose desires and fears blind them to simple solutions their lives offer.
This novel was witty in the way our own lives would be clever if we weren't desperately trying to figure out where they were going. I don't think it's necessary to rebut the one harsh review written of this book, but I would encourage anyone with the slightest bit of interest in seeing what the fuss is about to click and order. This book will interest you. You know people like these. Some of you, perhaps the most honest ones, realize that you are people like these.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Falco Gingrich on February 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Robert Cohen is a brilliant stylist who whose words are a delight to read, and the premise of this novel proves fertile ground for Cohen's apt powers of observation and deft humor. "Inspired Sleep's" two main characters are Bonnie Saks, a struggling grad student and mother suffering from insomnia; and Ian Ogelive, an ambitious but emotionally confused young researcher working in a sleeping lab. Put them together, and the big ideas begin to fly: academia, the role of anti-depressants in contemporary culture, the nature of marriage, the nature of parenthood, etc. Cohen is especially skillful at piling on the clever observations in witty dialogue that, while never quite believable, never seems exactly unbelievable either. In fact, the quirky nature of these characters seems absolutely apt, for Cohen is interested in putting his finger on the bizarre nature of contemporary society: how we look for meaning in things like prescription drugs and chat rooms. And what he comes up with is a great deal of fun to read.
I very much enjoyed Cohen's previous novel, "The Here and Now," though I thought it ultimately suffered from the same problem as a lot of contemporary novels of ideas: it did not know how to end, and the resolution seemed forced and overly intellectualized. "Inspired Sleep" has a much more natural and organic plot structure, which worked nicely in its favor. Like Cohen's previous novel, this one deals with not entirely likable characters who are on a quest to, if not make themselves more likable, at least remove some the difficulties in their lives that render them so unpleasant. In the case of "Inspired Sleep," I feel that Cohen goes a little bit overboard at times with Bonnie.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
With her ex-husband in Chile making films, Bonnie Saks, stressed out and 40-ish, finds herself the sole support of her two sons in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a doctoral candidate who has lost interest in her thesis, and a victim of insomnia. Like many other academic women, she is trying unsuccessfully to make ends meet as a college lecturer.
It's hard to work up a lot of sympathy for Bonnie, however. She seems to revel in her stress, using it as an excuse. Unlike thousands of other busy lecturers, she is irresponsible, never getting around to grading the papers for the writing course she is paid to teach (and for which her students pay tuition). She can't get motivated to try to find a new approach to her thesis so she can finish it, get her doctorate, and support her children more effectively. She often leaves her two sons, one of whom is disturbed and the other of whom cries out for more attention, in the care of a semiliterate teenage babysitter who is also irresponsible and often on drugs. She sleeps around and doesn't take precautions, leading to an unplanned pregnancy. And despite the pregnancy, she continues to drink and smoke--and sleep around. When, desperate for sleep, she decides to participate in a pill-induced sleep study, she blithely accepts the word of the researcher that the pills or drugs she takes will not hurt her unborn baby.
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