Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 09/13/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/13/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Irma Kurtz

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

IRMA KURTZ KNOWS THIS IS GOING TO sound corny, but the biggest surprise of her cross-country Greyhound jaunt "was the sheer beauty of America. It was beyond anything I had imagined it to be," says the modern-day de Tocqueville. The other surprise was how much she enjoyed riding on buses. "I look at people now and think, 'Are you a bus person or aren't you?' A bus person is tolerant, relaxed, non-judgmental—and short. It's hard to spend long times on a bus if you're tall," says the 5'5½" Kurtz. "And a bus person has got to be a listener."

Kurtz, in fact, is a professional listener: an advice columnist—what is known in her adopted country of England as an agony aunt—for the British, American and Australian editions of Cosmopolitan magazine. "I think the world falls roughly into two categories: the leaners and the leaned upon," says Kurtz, who is "well into her 50s," lives in London and is the happily never-married mother of a 20-year-old son. "I have two qualities that any agony aunt has to have: I'm very nosy, and I'm very bossy."

Kurtz, author of three novels and three books of nonfiction "about relations between the sexes," has another quality: a memorable face. "In Louisville," she recalls, "a girl recognized me from my picture in Cosmo, plunked herself down next to me and proceeded to tell me her problems." Which proves that you can ride but you can't hide.

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