Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, the inspiration for her father’s famous fictional teen surfer ‘Gidget,’ will answer questions about his recently published ‘Early Pleasures: Memoirs of a Sensual Youth’ on Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Books on Swarthmore. Zuckerman’s husband Marvin discovered the novel among his father-in-law Frederick Kohner’s papers several years after Kohner’s death in 1986. When Marvin retired as the dean of instruction at Los Angeles Valley College in 2002, he opened The Courtlandt Literary Agency and sought to find a press for his father-in-law’s unpublished story. A fictionalization of the author’s adolescent sexual adventures in Czechoslovakia, Austria and Paris in the years following World War I, the book tells the story of encounters with four distinctively different women: his brother’s governess; a young countess and the sister of a proto-Nazi; a servant girl with an emotional disorder; and a Russian ‘migr’. Of the women, the author wrote, ‘I cannot picture any one of them dead. They live on in that enchanted land called youth where nothing ever dies, not even we ourselves.’ The book confronts both the tragedy of life and the humor inherent in its ironies. ’While ‘Early Pleasures’ is a humorous book dealing with adolescent sexual frustration, it integrates the author’s concern with the injustice inherent in the relationships between those with and those without power,’ reads a statement by Kohner’s publishers, who praised his characterizations of both the women and his protagonist and awarded the novel the 2010 Black Heron Press Award for Social Fiction. Kohner was born in 1905 in Bohemia, a kingdom in Central Europe. He studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and received his doctorate from the University of Vienna. In Los Angeles, he worked as a film correspondent for German-language newspapers before returning to Europe to write screenplays in the late 1920s and early `30s. He fled Nazi Germany for the U.S. in 1936, under contract to Columbia Studios. He wrote more than 20 screenplays for various studios and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Story for ‘Mad About Music,’ starring Deanna Durbin (1938). His daughter Kathy and her husband live in Pacific Palisades, where they raised two sons, Phil and David. She wrote an afterword for the novel explaining how ‘Gidget’ came about and drawing parallels with ‘Early Pleasures.’ She said she told her dad she wanted to write a story about her ‘summer of sliding on a surfboard in Malibu, about the boys I met there’ and how her father offered to put that story to paper. He headed to the beach to absorb the surf culture and eavesdropped on Kathy’s conversations to write the original book, which sold more than 2 million copies and was the basis for three feature films and a television series starring Sally Field. ’If ‘Gidget’ was about me, ‘Early Pleasures’ is about him,’ Zuckerman said in her afterword. When she first read it, ‘I turned a tad red’it is not common for a daughter to read about her father’s youthful longings, his lust for women. But re-reading his novel later in life, I find it charming, filled with love and gaiety.’ ’It captures a time that doesn’t exist anymore,’ she said in an interview with the Palisadian-Post, adding that the book has prompted her to reread many of her father’s other novels, which number 20 or more. Her husband Marvin, who got to know his father-in-law well before his death at 81, said ‘He was an amazing, remarkable man in his understanding of human nature.’
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