Creative Writing at The New School

All We Know: Three Lives by Lisa Cohen

Lisa Cohen is the author of the triple biography, All We Know: Three Lives, which adroitly tells the stories of Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland. Each of these women were creative intellectuals submerged in and shaping the cultural spheres of their time while attempting to navigate the complexities of what that entails. A seemingly impossible task, Lisa Cohen manages to weave three idiosyncratic, yet sonorously resonant, complicated and interesting lives into one book.

We were very lucky to receive her for a reading and forum.

At the forum Lisa Cohen, quoting Esther Murphy (one of the subjects of All We Know), confided:

"Finishing a book is as lonely as beginning it."


On the complications of writing biography and constructing a narrative Lisa Cohen remarked:

"There is a tradition of an omniscient voice who pretends to know everything—even more than the subject itself."

Responding to a quote by author Colm Toibin, Lisa Cohen countered:

"The difference between fact and fiction is the difference between land and water but land and water... they touch."

Many thanks to Lisa Cohen and moderator Honor Moore for providing us with such an insightful night.

All We Know: Three Lives by Lisa Cohen is available to order online or at your local bookstore.


Lisa Cohen is the author of All We Know: Three Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012). Her essays and poems have appeared in Fashion Theory, BookforumVoguePloughshares, Boog City, Barrow StreetLitThe Paris Review DailyNewsday, the Voice Literary Supplement, and other journals and anthologies. Her interview with the biographer Michael Holroyd is forthcoming from The Paris Review. She teaches at Wesleyan University.

Moderated by Honor Moore, faculty at the School of Writing.


About The Author


Founded in Greenwich Village in 1931, Creative Writing at The New School continues to promote, engender, and shape innovative literature.