Rachel Cohen

A Chance Meeting

A Chance Meeting


Each chapter in this remarkable consideration of American culture evokes an actual meeting between two historical figures.

In 1854, as a boy, Henry James has his daguerreotype made by Mathew Brady. We encounter Brady again as he photographs Walt Whitman and then Ulysses Grant. Meanwhile, Henry James begins a lasting friendship with William Dean Howells, and also meets Sarah Orne Jewett, who in turn is a mentor to Willa Cather...

Cohen brilliantly reanimates these unforgettable pairings and those of Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz; Carl Van Vechten and Gertrude Stein; Hart Crane and Charlie Chaplin; Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston; Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore; Richard Avedon and James Baldwin; and John Cage and Marcel Duchamp; Norman Mailer and Robert Lowell. Ultimately, Cohen reveals and long chain of friendship, rebellion and influence stretching from the moment before the Civil War through a century that had a profound effect on our own time. A Chance Meeting is an intimate and original act of biography and cultural history that makes its own contribution to the tradition about which Cohen writes.