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Cool Cynic: Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss feels misunderstood -- The author talks about his novel ''Cock-a-doodle-doo''

''I feel misunderstood,'' says author Philip Weiss from the bedroom of his home in Cold Spring, N.Y. ''That's why I don't read reviews, even positive reviews.''

Reviews of Cock-a-doodle-doo, his sexy political satire, have generally been kind. But no matter. ''I'll read the reviews...about a year from now...probably,'' he says, with enough suspicion to make you think maybe critics really can work whammies.

Weiss is not having a good day. Having been diagnosed with pneumonia, he pops a pill, slugs some water, swallows. ''If my doctor calls, I'll have to interrupt this,'' he says.

Get him wound about Cock-a-doodle-doo, though, and he doesn't sound sick at all. A swirling descent into the hubris of politics and high society, the novel is two parts repartee, one soulful self-assessment. Says the author: ''It's about an individual, Jack Gold, trying to separate himself from orthodoxies, be it political correctness or social obligations. At the end, he can say what's not right for him — that's great rebellion for him.''

Weiss, 39, admits his own story sometimes mirrors Jack's. ''I'm also someone who was bewitched by the '80s social scene. I got dazzled as much as Jack got dazzled.'' What bewitches Jack most is Burry, a performance artist who's also a prominent politician's daughter. Weiss loosely based Burry on someone he dated: Maura Moynihan, the real-life scion of New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Weiss describes Burry's scent as ''part B.O. and maybe patchouli,'' but says, ''I don't remember Maura smelling like that.''

Next up for the rookie novelist: The Ranther. ''When I said I was writing a new book, my wife [magazine writer Cynthia Kling] groaned, 'It's not about New York, is it?''' All Weiss will say is that ''it departs reality for a more mystical zone.''

Finally, his voice grows hoarse. He does indeed sound ill but offers one more thought: ''I look forward to the day I become an old fiction-writing whore.'' Maybe then he'll read his reviews.


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Originally posted Jun 30, 1995 Published in issue #281-282 Jun 30, 1995 Order article reprints