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1. Briar Rose (Coover, Robert)
2. The Public Burning (Coover, Robert)
3. Noir: A Novel
4. A Night at the Movies, or, You
5. Pricksongs & Descants: Fictions
6. The Adventures of Lucky Pierre:
7. Stepmother (Coover, Robert)
8. Ghost Town
9. Gerald's Party (Coover, Robert)
10. The Universal Baseball Association,
11. Pinocchio in Venice (Coover, Robert)
12. John's Wife
13. First Person; Conversations on
14. Understanding Robert Coover (Understanding
15. The Metafictional Muse: The Work
16. Robert Coover (Twayne's United
17. Robert Coover: The Universal Fictionmaking
18. Comic Sense: Reading Robert Coover,
19. Robert Coover: A Study of the
20. Robert Coover's Fictions

1. Briar Rose (Coover, Robert)
by Robert Coover
Paperback: 96 Pages (1997-12-19)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$8.05
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802135412
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Coover puts his unique spin on one of the oldest and best-known of all fairy tales, "Sleeping Beauty", telling the story of a prince trapped in the briars; a sleeping beauty who cannot awaken, dreaming of a succession of kissing princes; and the old spell-casting fairy who inhabits the princess's dreams, regaling her with legends of other sleeping beauties and trying to imagine the nature of human desire.Amazon.com Review
Robert Coover has apower over the language matched by few authors and a curiosity aboutthe nature of stories and narratives that keeps his workintellectually charged, if sometimes difficult to follow. Students ofpostmodernism and fans of metafiction will be interested to readBriar Rose, Coover's funny deconstruction and retelling of theSleeping Beauty fairy tale. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

2-0 out of 5 stars It's cynical.
On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest rating I could give, I rate this book a 7.It's hard to stay with.The writing is not bad, but the approach is cynical.Actually, it gives me a feeling that the author does not really like females, and is taking out his aggression on the fair sex by these writings.I could do without being so much in the prince's "head", or the evil fairy's "head" - especially before bedtime.Nobody wants a rotting princess full of worms, either.What ever happened to the other fairies?They aren't here.I can't read this book before I go to sleep.It's not a soothing experience. It's dark; but some people like that kind of thing.I don't find it to be an erotic book in any sense of the word - it is more aggressive than feeling.In fact? the prince does everything short of squatting in front of a mirror to comb his hair back like "The Fonz" from Happy Days, before meeting the princess. "Aaaayyy!" (Gee, I think I would take THE FONZ over this prince, any day!)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent exploration of the symbolic overtones of the Sleeping Beauty story
Briar Rose is the name of the princess in Sleeping Beauty and the name of the Grimm brothers version of the story is Little Briar Rose. Robert Coover tells the story from three points of view. First is the point of view of the prince entering and cutting his way through the briars on a heroic/erotic quest. Then there is the princess dreaming of her rescue by a kiss from the spell induced by a spindle prick and the promised handsome prince who will do the kissing. Lastly, is the evil fairy who cast the spell and who keeps the princess company by telling her stories during her 100 year slumber. The story keeps switching between these three perspectives, with much repetition. Each character explores their own expectations and fears through this process.

This is a story rich in mythic and erotic symbolism, and Coover explores these in depth as each character relives the event in their mind from slightly different perspectives over and over again. As a study in the symbolism and possible overtones of the brief story, Coover's work is excellent. People looking for a romantic retelling of the original tale should definitely look elsewhere because some of the variations include disturbing elements like incest, cannibalism, adultery, and rape. While nowhere near as much an erotic fantasy as Anne Rice's three volume Beauty series, this book is still not appropriate for the faint of heart or children.

2-0 out of 5 stars And you thought the Brothers were Grimm
I kept falling asleep when I was reading this--and all I can remember now, its been a year. Is how weird I found it.It kept giving me weird ideas, that perhaps the author would have loved to seen Sleeping Beauty as a porno flick instead of a fairy tale.

Strange, strange book. Though it certainly has some unique ideas in it.

This is a really dark book, even if it is amazingly short.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Existential Sleeping Beauty
While reading Coover's book, you might find yourself confused.This is only appropriate, as Coover wrote an existential masterpiece.The prince's efforts to penetrate the briar hedge lead him nowhere.Beauty dreams of a series of princes waking her, each worse than the last.They seek eachother because they seek the only concept they know will not melt away.

If you consider the phrase "someday my prince will come" sacrosanct, this is probably not a good one to read.

If you need a traditional narrative, this is probalby not a good one to read.

If you're looking for a read aloud for your children...perhaps try a different book.

Otherwise, enjoy.

1-0 out of 5 stars What a Waste of Time!
Well, sorry but this story [is disappointing].Espescially for anyone who enjoyed the story and idea of Sleeping Beauty. And its not even that the story is that bad.The writing [is no good].The reader is constantly confused, and even when you've finished the book, you might go "huh?" I hated it. I do not suggest that anyone buy this book. ... Read more

2. The Public Burning (Coover, Robert)
by Robert Coover
Paperback: 544 Pages (1998-04-02)
list price: US$17.00 -- used & new: US$8.58
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802135277
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Amazon.com Review
For quite some time after the 1977 publication of ThePublic Burning, it was almost impossible to find a copy. Thebook's own publisher seemed--no, was reluctant to admit it evenexisted.That's because this imaginative reconstruction of the 1953execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted for giving atombomb secrets to the Soviets, was the first major work of modernfiction to feature a still-living historical figure as a prominentcharacter. The book's obscurity was the publisher's attempt to avoidlegal repercussions from Richard Nixon, who over the course of thebook engages in a romantic interlude with Ethel Rosenberg andgraphically surrenders himself to a rapacious Uncle Sam.

Now that Nixon's dead, however, readers are free to marvel at one ofthe few American novels to rival Joyce's Ulysses for sustainedstylistic inventiveness. Snippets of speeches and articles fromTime are recast in poetic form, entire scenes are presented indramatic verse, as events in the Rosenberg case move towards theirhistorically destined conclusion. --Ron Hogan ... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars Exhilarating!
This is one of the most exhilarating pieces of fiction I have read.
The story, if there really is one, concerns the Rosenbergs- spies!- and the decision by the government to put them to death, in Times Square, as the climax of a televised, variety show event.Richard Nixon is the main protagonist, thoughtful, introspective, painted in a positive light (this book was published in '77) but ultimately humiliated in front of a nation.Uncle Sam is a foul mouthed, vulgar jerk.The Phantom terrorizes America, representing communism and McCarthyism and the patriotic hysteria of the '50s.The book is funny, irreverent, political, whimsical, philosophical, and somehow manages to be cutting edge and on-your-toes fresh for all 500+ of its pages.
Coover takes the facts of history- the text from actual speeches, news reports, actual people and events- shuffles them freely, and deals them out in comedic fashion with a satirical purpose.What James Michener has done for Alaska, Texas, Mexico and countless other locations- boiled their history down into epic novels that somehow capture the essence of a place- Coover has down with the '50s in America.It's all here- fear, repression, conformity, paranoia, cold war politics, hypocrisy- and presented ingeniously and brilliantly.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Treasonous Truth
The sheer brilliance of 'The Public Burning' cannot be understated. From the virtuousity of the writing to the subtle intelligence of its criticisms, this book still stands as a classic. Importantly, this novel is not merely an unfavourable take on the culture of the cold war but is a broader interrogation of the ways in which history folds into fantasy in American life, how law becomes theatre, war becomes spectacle, politics an electrocution. Its cartoonish aspects are not simply Coover's attempt to indict the era through mockery nor an invitation to stand over people in the past. Instead, they are a representation of a culture that can only ever come to terms with itself through cartoons, a nation that needs its enemies animated, its champions superheroic, its values decomplicated in dusty bromides and staid clichés. Most intriguing perhaps is the treatment of Eisenhower: in Coover's world, an example of how even the most moderate and benign public figures are entangled in the extremities of violence and cynicism that are not just the work of the political fringes nor the province of any one political party over another but are instead the popular centrifuge around which the idea of America assembles itself. There is no doubt that this is a highly political book but it is not political because it is partisan (a work of the Left raging against the Right) but rather because it is sceptical of politics altogether. All Americans assemble to see the Rosenbergs fry -- wherever they may lie on the political spectrum, Democrat or Republican, conservative or dissident. What burns in this novel is the public -- the very idea of a public entity or a civic realm which is constituted through well-intentioned notions of truth, security, justice, freedom and faith, but which cannot have any of these without an allegiance to the idea of the nation itself, an allegiance which will allow dissent within tight bounds but which will put those too far outside this boundary - especially those who move against the state in a criminal way - to a showy, spectacular death. At the heart of all this lies Nixon, not just because the disgraced future President is an indication of democratic bankruptcy, a representative of how power has become so misplaced, but also because he embodies the emptiness of the idea of the nation itself, the coercive need to 'act American' which is necessary to put into motion this patriotic stir of activity, this great rollicking farce. I note that some reviewers here have taken issue with the apparent lack of depth in the characters Coover offers in this book - Uncle Sam as snake-oil salesman, Nixon as buffoon and so on -- but this misses the author's real aim: to assemble already well-worn clichés in such an intense concentration that they expose the impossibility of character in such a culture, to demonstrate how the idea of America strings itself together in a series of lip-service wisdoms about history and destiny that ultimately eclipse individuality and to place each and every person in proximity to the electric chair, implicating everyone in the violent lunacy of the legal execution, which, because it is carried out in the name of the people, cannot help but involve the people in their entirety. Too often authors attempt to criticise America by putting forward a vision of what the 'real' America actually is or what the 'true' America should be, an alternative in either way that 'sheds light' on how the 'actual' inherent worth of the country has been corrupted. Coover, on the other hand, will have none of this: the carnivalesque inferno he conjures out of the careful blend of fiction and fact is aimed at decimating any salvageable idea of the nation at all, of tearing the whole logic of allegiance to the ground. In this sense, and quite proudly and profoundly, 'The Public Burning' is as treasonous to America as the Rosenbergs were deemed to be themselves.

It has to be said, however, that this book is not so much a defence of the Rosenbergs themselves or their crimes as it is a critique of the law that convicted them. It is a misreading of this book to assume the Rosenbergs are made into heroes, or that their operatic casting as victims should make us excuse their proven or potential guilt. Rather, Coover looks to them not to pardon them but to tell a story that will act as a counternarrative to how guilt and innocence were decided in this case. To this day, the controversy surrounding the Rosenberg trial is not so much to do with whether they were foreign agents (it seems Julius Rosenberg was involved in espionage, though the evidence is still out on his wife, Ethel) or whether the information they provided to the Russians was of any actual use (there is still some debate over this) but rather the gross miscarriage of justice embodied in the way they were put to death. As Justice Douglas explains early in the book to Uncle Sam, the US Constitution states that "no person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court."In the Rosenberg case, there was only one witness - Julius' brother-in-law, David Greenglass - and no confession. As such, to get around this, government prosecutors tried the Rosenbergs on a lesser conspiracy law, a piece of legislation which had been enacted by Congress to circumvent the 'two witness' provision by revising it so that only one witness's testimony could permit a conviction. And yet the hypocrisy of this was not so much the law in and of itself but the fact that the Rosenbergs were convicted on this lesser law even as they were sentenced to death on a *higher* law. Their prosecution went against the provisions of the Constitution but they were also handed the maximum punishment for treason - death - that only the Constitution allows. In other words, what enabled them to be executed was the very document that was shunned by prosecutors in the first place. This kind of legal cherrypicking is at the heart of Coover's critique because it demonstrates how the Constitution - designed, remember, not only to protect the nation from traitors but also to prevent the misuse of power, a different kind of treason - was corrupted in this case to serve the so-called national interest. If Coover wants this book to be traitorous in its searing critique of the idea of America, he also wants it to be constitutional. In fact, what Coover ironically shows us is that to be treasonous and to be a constitutionalist is one and the same in the USA so many years on from its founding. To think ourselves outside the nation is to actually think toward the document that brought it into being. This is not to say that Coover believes he can discern some 'true' shape of the nation in the constitution. No, in adhering to the constitution so closely, he cleverly highlights how the self-autonomising nature of that document - as the 'thing-in-itself' of the nation, as that which declared it into existence and thus somehow simultaneously embodied a pure *arrival* at its essence, already, case closed, all those hundreds of years ago - is so routinely and naturally undercut by the manipulations inherent to the history of the nation's actual practice. In truth, there is no democratic ideal so guaranteed by that founding document that we can't find a way to detain it or delay it or circumvent it on the ground - and always in the name of that selfsame democratic ideal, of course, and in the name of the constitution that is meant to forever defend it. In this sense, 'The Public Burning' is neither a simple-minded polemic against the cynicism of a culture nor a ham-fisted attempt to excuse the inexcusable. In the end, and with great courage and sensitivity, it is one long oath to a nation we would like to think exists but never really does.

5-0 out of 5 stars Thanks, Kevin
It's good to have red-baiting reviewers like Kevin Bowman to prove Robert Coover's point a half-century after the Rosenbergs died and nearly thirty years after his book appeared.Gee, even an evil intellectual ("vindictive college professor") turns up in Kevin's review.Talk about fully-formed characters.

It's a great book.You don't have to agree with the politics.There are parts where Coover goes way over the top, as you might expect with any 800 pound gorilla of a novel like this.It's true, it is a little "sophomoric" sometimes.It's profound more often, though, and not just because Coover takes potshots at Luce's Time Magazine.

Seriously, this is an unjustly ignored masterpiece.Let's hope there are more vindictive college professors out there.

1-0 out of 5 stars Godawful
Any book based on the premise that the Rosenbergs were innocent, deserving of beatification, victims of awful America, is not going to date well.1977, I suppose, was a kind of high-water mark for that sort of thinking.If you have a friend who thinks Stalin was unfairly maligned, this may be the book for him.

I was forced to read this book cover to cover by a vindictive college professor who assigned it to me (and me alone) as the subject for a class writing project.I loathed every minute of it.From its doctrinaire anti-anti-communist, anti-Americanism; its sub-Dos Passos modernism; its sophomoric delight in scatology (giggle, giggle, tee hee, Nixon has sex with Ethel Rosenberg and is then anally raped by Uncle Sam).There are no fully-formed characters, just endless making of puerile political points.Nixon-bad.Time Magazine-bad.America-bad.Ethel Rosenberg-saint and martyr.

Its like a bad book treatment of a very bad Ken Russell movie.I'd rather eat jagged metal bits than be forced to read this pompous, train-wreck of a book ever again.

3-0 out of 5 stars No more than a sideshow attraction
Every now and then I finish a book and ask, "Now why did this author write that?"I'm not talking about trash reading.We know what that's for; entertainment.No, when I ask "Why?" after finishing a book, it's generally a longer work with artistic ambitions and evidently an important point to make.I just can't tell what that point might be.

Take "The Public Burning".The author, Robert Coover, is widely considered to be one of the leading lights of American experimental fiction.The novel is a semi-fictionalized narrative of the days preceding the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, here as in real life convicted of treason for selling atomic secrets to the Russians.It's a good read, but what's the value in telling a true story in such an odd way?The true story is dramatic enough as is.Coover never quite answers that, and it weakens his book.

Feel free to skip this part if you know the historical facts:

Back in the 1950s, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear bomb.Many assumed that the Soviets must have stolen nuclear information from the U.S. through a network of spies, and the FBI picked the Rosenbergs as the guilty parties.They were convicted and sentenced to death, and despite a last-minute stay of execution by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, they went to the electric chair on June 19, 1953.

In his novel, Coover recasts the Rosenberg execution as a piece of political theater, deliberately staged by the Eisenhower administration to boost American morale, and therefore set to take place as the novel opens not at the Sing Sing death house, but in the middle of Times Square.Uncle Sam, here a real person, is a sort of superhero, possessed of remarkable powers in his neverending battle against the Phantom, his appropriately shady Communist counterpart.And perhaps most bizarrely, while half the chapters have the usual third-person narrator telling the story in a kind of hyper-inflated circus language, the other chapters are narrated by none other than Vice President Richard Nixon.

Before we get to Tricky Dick, however, let's consider the carnival-barker narration of the other chapters.It's filled with comic-book jargon, interjections on the order of "Good Heavens!" and various other cheesy rhetorical devices.Uncle Sam himself speaks like a snake-oil salesman, tossing in many a "Whoopee-ti-yi-yo!" and things like that as the execution approaches.

Evidently, this book seeks to present the United States as a nation of con men and suckers, but in the midst of all the tinsel and ballyhoo (directed by Cecil B. DeMille, with sets by Walt Disney), it seems like a lot of fun.Coover shows a nice balance between the exhilaration of rah-rah Americanism and the horror of the rot under the surface.It's all part of the same long, strange trip, and you can't have one without the other.

With a similar schizophrenia, in his sections of this book, Nixon has a sort of poetry in his soul and genuine sense of mission, both of them about as banal as you please.That sounds like a contradiction in terms, I know, but what else can you say about a character who comes right out and says that he loves his wife primarily because she belongs to him?Who can't decide between serving his country and serving himself, and often conflates the two?And who spends half his time parsing every one of Uncle Sam's most moronic clichés like it was the entrails of some sacrificial chicken?

If this description reminds you of your favorite national politican, Republican or Democrat, I assure you that's not a coincidence.Nixon himself once said, in real life, that John Kennedy was what people wanted to be, and he himself what they actually were.In any case, his fictionalized counterpart here is doubtless what we're afraid we are.He is Vice President of the United States, for God's sake, and he's still a loser.He sweats and stinks through the pages in desperate need of a shave or a toilet, he strains to justify himself and his past in the middle of a national crisis, he can't even relax while playing golf.And needless to say, the more he struggles for victory, the more clownish he becomes.By the time the book is over, a jammed Times Square has had an eyeful of Dick Nixon with his pants around his ankles, and there are worse humiliations in store for him.

Okay, so far we've got an examination of the American split personality from two very different and complementary points of view, filtered through an actual historical event and featuring historical figures.I was intrigued.So why did I feel so let down when I reached the last page?

I think it's because, when you get right down to cases, nothing really happens in "The Public Burning".Ethel and Julius Rosenberg die, Uncle Sam taps Nixon as a future president, and things go back to the way they were before.For all the flash and dazzle, the comic book zip, the world of this book and the world we live in are pretty much alike.Which isn't a bad thing, but the flourish made me anticipate something more, some explosive scream at the end.Instead, "The Public Burning" reads like Coover simply observed these events through a literary kaleidoscope and wrote down what he saw.That makes for good painting sometimes, but not necessarily good novels; "The Public Burning" is an amusing experiment, but so what?

In short, this book would have made a truly fascinating short piece, and even as is it's a lot of fun to read for the language alone.Really good full-length novels, on the other hand, leave what Anthony Burgess called some kind of residue in the mind."The Public Burning" just slides right through.Bring on the next one.

Benshlomo says, 500-odd pages ought to weigh more than this. ... Read more

3. Noir: A Novel
by Robert Coover
Hardcover: 224 Pages (2010-03-04)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$14.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1590202945
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
With impeccable skill, Robert Coover, one of America's pioneering postmodernists, has turned the classic detective story inside-out. Here Coover is at the top of his form; and Noir is a true page-turner-wry, absurd, and desolate.

You are Philip M. Noir, Private Investigator. A mysterious young widow hires you to find her husband's killer-if he was killed. Then your client is killed and her body disappears-if she was your client. Your search for clues takes you through all levels of the city, from classy lounges to lowlife dives, from jazz bars to a rich sex kitten's bedroom, from yachts to the morgue. "The Case of the Vanishing Black Widow" unfolds over five days aboveground and three or four in smugglers' tunnels, though flashback and anecdote, and expands time into something much larger. You don't always get the joke, though most people think what's happening is pretty funny. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars Robert Coover's stab (or shot) at hard boiled crime fiction
All the elements of a Phillip Marlowe hard boiled crime detective novel are there: a wise cracking private detective, Philip Noir, hard at work attempting to solve the murder of a widow's husband, dark and rainy wind swept city streets, shady supporting characters named Blue, Rats, Mister Big, Pug, the Hammer, Fingers, and the Fat Man.Add in Noir's helpful, seemingly indispensible, if somewhat pushy private secretary with the name of Blanche (Black and White), and a mysterious woman, whom Noir follows because she wears tight stockings with seams in them.To make things worse, the widow disappears.Is she dead?Does she even exist?

It took me quite a long time in this relatively short (192 page) crime novel to see that Mr. Coover has, all along, been putting the reader on.What would one expect in a crime novel where the detective wears women's lace panties and who wakes up in a refrigerator drawer in a morgue?_Noir_, like the Raymond Chandler books, is often funny, even if deliberately darkly so.

1-0 out of 5 stars Unreadable
I almost never put a book down, even if I don't happen to like it. I only made it to page 88 of this one, and that was painful. The plot is boring and convoluted, andthe humor childish. If you're a 12 year old boy you'll probably enjoy the jokes. Otherwise, look elsewhere. Life is too short to spend reading stuff like this.

5-0 out of 5 stars NOIR will "grab you by the nads..."
Redolent of Raymond Chandler's iconic private eye Philip Marlow and Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade, Coover's coincidentally named Philip M. Noir pays tribute to the genre with this hilariously ribald, hard-boiled private eye mystery. The prolific Brown University professor's first novel earned the 1966 William Faulkner Award. This is Coover's 23rd work of fiction, after 1998's GHOST TOWN, and his first foray into experimental crime fiction in second-person narration ("You" versus "I"). Through second-person narrative, "you" sample wine "from some country you've never heard of called Bordox. Sounds like an antacid or a cleansing agent. Tastes like one, too."

Dubious characters Rats, Snark and Creep "live in a different world. It was called daytime." When Noir claims someone poisoned "you" by putting something in your drink, sassy assistant Blanche says, "Yeah. It's called alcohol." Though you are in a perpetual booze-haze, "a hunch is to a gumshoe what a skirt is to a letch: a tease; pursuit; trouble." You-as-Noir are "not so much a private eye as an eyer of privates. Your university days." The lack of quote marks surrounding dialogue is only slightly disconcerting, a ruse that causes readers to slow down and enjoy the sojourn.

A sexy mystery woman with noir secrets hidden behind widow's weeds hires gumshoe Noir to investigate her husband's mysterious death. When Blanche asks "Whatever made you take up this case?" Noir responds, "Well, she has nice legs." ("[Y]ou randy old letch.")

A mystic muse, Coover introduces his irreverent, avant garde interpretation of the detective novel with zany but richly written hyperbole. You "tugged your fedora down...hands in trenchcoat pockets, stepped out into the grim wet night. The streets were wearing their heavy shadows as if dressed for a wake." You feel as though you're in a movie, playing the part of Bogart and Bacall characters. You instinctively know that patience is essential, when you can't extract information from recalcitrant suspects. "[I]f you make a story with gaps in it, people just step in to fill them up, they can't help themselves."

Not sure if it's booze or a seemingly daily blow to the head that kayoed you, you wake "at the morgue. The refrigerated vaults. You're in a cadaver drawer." Not knowing how you got there, you know only that you have to get out. You're not ready for The Big Sleep.

It's not You-as-Noir who's hard-boiled, it's the world in which you live and how you deal with diabolical characters. NOIR will "grab you by the nads and drag you into a webby plot not of your own devising." But there's "[t]rouble with webs. When you're in one, you can't see past the next knot."

NOIR is highly recommended for readers who enjoy wit and humor with realism and satire. "That's right, sweetheart."

4-0 out of 5 stars Noir Sung Blue
Robert Coover Gets with His Inner Gumshoe

You read a lot of hard-boiled fiction. Maybe even a little too much. The kinda little too much Cocteau called "just enough." You cut your teeth on Chandler and Hammett and James M. Cain. Learned to crack wise through Mickey Spillane. You got your dark view of the world from Jim Thompson. Consider yourself an authority on Elmore Leonard. And you've spent a good chunk of a hard life alongside walk-alones like Travis McGee, Hoke Mosley, Harry Bosch and Elvis Cole.

You prefer alleys to main drags, suits to denim, highballs to beer. You speak fast, think once and never apologize, no matter how wrong they say you are. You've got swollen knuckles, a tin ear and a chip on your shoulder that's been around so long it's got a name.

When you heard word that Robert Coover had gotten with his inner gumshoe, you weren't mad. In fact, you were pleased by the news. You saw that he called his experiment Noir, and you said "What else?" And when you got the book in your hands, you didn't put it down until you'd reached The End.

You didn't mind that the antihero's name was Philip M. Noir because you know it comes from the best. You didn't care that the bad guy was called Mr. Big, the alley cat was christened Rats, or that Noir had the hots for a dame named Flame. You were even somewhat charmed by the fact that "her lovers were called moths."

You dug the stuttering neon, the puddled shadows, the holstered heaters. And you knew what was coming when the veiled widow showed up in need of a peeper. Tomorrow was gonna be black-and-blue, and you couldn't wait.

In truth, the whole book is a bruise, punctuated by dead bodies, and it smarts. You wouldn't have wanted it any other way. And since you too have been "sucked into stories that have already been told," you already knew how hard would be "to step out of it." But you also know that "it's not the story you're trapped in," it's "how you play it out. Your style. Class. The moves you make."

You see that now, here, in Coover's shady strut through the "dark damp night." Just as you saw it then, in Chandler and Hammett and Cain. You recognize the "filthy, smoky, gloomy, rank" as if it were an old friend. You too have walked these streets, made these mistakes, lived these myths. And you will continue reading these stories until there are no more words.

From Bound 3/11/2010 SunPost Weekly

4-0 out of 5 stars "Incorrigible weakness in a meaningless universe"
To borrow the second person voice ("you") that controls the narrative of Robert Coover's new novel, "Noir", let it be noted at the outset that you fall within one of three groups.

1 - You are a Coover aficionado and have read most or all of his output to date. You will buy or borrow the newly released "Noir" and read its slim 192 pages in a feverish swoon, critics be damned.If, at some point, you find yourself reading reviews of "Noir" (even, Lord help you, these amateur ones on Amazon) it's because you've finished the book and want to relive the experience or compare your reaction to others.Or:

2 - You have read one or two Coover books (maybe as part of a post-modern lit course) and want to catch up with what the 78-year-old author is doing nowadays.Is he still in the game, you wonder?The news is positive.You will find the pages of "Noir" chock full of Coover's signature mordant wit and claustrophobic worldview.Years ago NY Times book critic Michiko Kakutani observed: "Of all the post-modernist writers, Robert Coover is probably the funniest and most malicious." So, yes, you'll find "Noir" fitfully laugh-inducing -- especially if you're in the mood for a relentless, demented, hallucinogenic parody of crime fiction.If at its end you are ambivalent about the book, well, that is not uncommon with Coover.Upon closing the book you may place a hand on your belly and think to yourself, that was not so much a satisfying meal as a bitter entrée.More likely you will be so delighted by its denouement, which incorporates street philosophy, word play, and all-around cleverness, that you will forgive and forget having been dragged through some slow sections.Or:

3 - Coover is entirely new to you.If so, you are wondering how do you get a good sense of what "Noir" will mean to you as a reading experience?You're finding most reviews of the book are frustratingly un-useful to the novice reader.(There seems to be a jargon-loving Coover clique that luxuriates in the cryptic.)Well, you might consider first checking out a short interview in which Coover himself explains the style and themes of "Noir".This is available online (use these three words in Google search: Coover bookslut interview).Consider also spending a few minutes watching Coover in action, as he reads an early scene (and arguably the best pages) from "Noir".The video is available using four terms in Google search: Coover Penn Reading Video.(His reading from "Noir" occupies the final minutes of the QuickTime video).If the interview and video generally pique your interest, and if you would not be put off by what is essentially a light entertainment paradoxically burdened with down-and-dirty stretches of bleak pessimism and erotic haunting, then by all means read "Noir".Or, consider either of the following two alternatives to "Noir" as a better first experience of Coover's world:"Pricksongs and Descants", his ground-breaking short story collection; or "The Origin of the Brunists", a more conventional, generous and very American tale of the spawning of a religious cult in a mining community.And finally, if you can find a used or library copy of "A Political Fable: The Cat in the Hat for President" (unfairly, it's currently out-of-print), please seize the pleasure of reading it.It may very well become your favorite piece of zaniness by any author ever.It is mine.

Finally, here are a few stray perceptions of my own to share with Coover fans who have finished the book.

Coover is nothing if not quotable. Wherever you are in "Noir" you are not far from coming upon yet another astringent observation about humankind's bleak condition, endless variations on the theme of "your incorrigible weakness in a meaningless universe" (page 103).We sing a ballad "meant to provoke reflections upon life's brevity, and its thin sad beauty" (page 108). "The city was as bounded as a gameboard, no place to hide in it, no way but one to leave it, you alone defenseless in it, your moves not even your own" (page 175). Most Hobbesian of all is this: "The body has to eat and drink so it can stay healthy long enough to enjoy an agonizing death, and the mind, to help out, has to know where the provisions are and how to get them and who else is after them and how to kill them" (page 159). And yet, at the novel's close, a glimpse of something vital: "You can't escape the melody but you can make it your own."

Borrowings from films are abundant: the shifting cityscape of "Dark City" (page 163), the mirror room scene in "The Lady from Shanghai" (page 181), and the false-identity caper "Catch Me If You Can" (page 186).

At one point Philip Noir tries to recall who it was who once likened an odd juxtaposition to "a pearl onion on a banana split." (The line belongs to Raymond Chandler's Marlowe). When another character advises, "Plant you now, dig you later, man" (page 111) , this is a twofer or maybe a three-way: its source is the jazz world of the 1920's/30's, but the phrase also was used as a title of a song in "Pal Joey" and later as the title of a "Gilligan's Island" episode -- facts surely not lost on pop culture maven Coover. Philip Noir notices a few words carved into a wooden tabletop at a jazz joint: "You are the music while the music lasts." This is a line from "The Dry Salvages", the third section of "Four Quartets" by T.S. Eliot.Serious readers more adept than me (with or without benefit of Google search) will score rich points in this endless game of spot-the-allusion.

I wonder whether the sympathetic character of Michiko ("she's a work of art") is Coover's homage to the sympathetic critic of his work, Michiko Kakutani. Then again, given the fate Coover assigns to the fictitious Michiko, I'm thinking maybe this is best left unexplored. As the author himself cautions:

"It's all quite simple. But sometimes not knowing is better. It's more interesting."

(Mike Ettner) ... Read more

4. A Night at the Movies, or, You Must Remember This
by Robert Coover
 Paperback: 187 Pages (2007-03-01)
list price: US$11.95 -- used & new: US$4.34
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1564781607
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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From Hollywood B-movies to Hollywood classics, A Night at the Movies invents what might have happened in these Saturday afternoon matinees. Mad scientists, vampires, cowboys, dance-men, Chaplin, and Bogart, all flit across Robert Coover's riotously funny screen, doing things and uttering lines that are as shocking to them as they are funny to the reader. As Coover's Program announces, you will get Coming Attractions, The Weekly Serial, Adventure, Comedy, Romance, and more, but turned upside-down and inside-out. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great selection of short stories with cinematic themes...
You must remember this features the love of Rick and Ilse as you've never imagined it before.Other stories offer a colorful
though often sadistic portrayal of the place where reality
meets the celluloid imaginings that too often seem to dominate
our lives.Wonderful, clear, easy to read prose.Bitingly honest.

3-0 out of 5 stars "A Night At The Movies" by Robert Coover is satirical
"A Night At The Movies by Robert Coover ia a collection of short narratives that provide a satirical glimpse of this centuries film genres and extends them beyond traditional arcs to cross genres and dissolveboundaries between them. The most interesting aspect of Coover's text is bycombining so many film types such as Westerns, adventure, horror andromance, and extending their stereotypical plots, he is providingcommentary on the new age of film and how their boundaries are muted andnot typical of the films of old.One of the basic strengths of this textis that while reading the text one may feel lost in one part of the textbut is suddenly found again when something familiar is presented. There isnot a chance that at least one film type is not recognizable to a reader. Coover explores these various types very well, his additions to the plotsand cross imposing of characters provide a interesting satirical insight onthe current film industry reminiscent of a Saturday Night Live skit.Thisis an overall good book for it's own purposes which is to spotlight thedistinction between current and older film genres as well as to satiricallymix and mingle the boundaries between them. I would recommend this book forall film lovers.

4-0 out of 5 stars This is truly a Night at the Movies!!
A Night at the Movies is a well structured view of movie scenes fanagled together to represent a post-modernistic production.What is mostinteresting about Coover's book is how he incoporated all the"movie" scenes together to create a certain affect, and yet youhave to remember you're just reading a book!One of Coover's overallstrengths is the way in which he lays out a scene for you that is not quiteverbatim (or an exact replica of) the an actual movie or sitcom, yet youcan make rather accurate assumptions as to the movie or scene he may beportraying.One example of this is one of my favorite scenes with themischievious children which reminds me of the famous Little Rascals. Although the book is very outstanding in the way it is written, A Night atthe Movies can still be quite overwhelming.However, Coover is veryeffective in writing short stories and holding them together by moviescenes and titles, as well as the different segments within the book(previews, movie, intermission, etc.), along with addressing questions ofidentity rather than answering them - leaving that up to the reader. ANight at the Movies is a wonderful work for a more mature audience with atouch of movie suspense that is very effectively written, high above itsclass.

4-0 out of 5 stars This is truly a Night at the Movies!!
A Night at the Movies is a well structured view of movie scenes fanagled together to represent a post-modernistic production.What is mostinteresting about Coover's book is how he incoporated all the"movie" scenes together to create a certain affect, and yet youhave to remember you're just reading a book!One of Coover's overallstrengths is the way in which he lays out a scene for you that is not quiteverbatim (or an exact replica of) the an actual movie or sitcom, yet youcan make rather accurate assumptions as to the movie or scene he may beportraying.One example of this is one of my favorite scenes with themischievious children which reminds me of the famous Little Rascals. Although the book is very outstanding in the way it is written, A Night atthe Movies can still be quite overwhelming.However, Coover is veryeffective in writing short stories and holding them together by moviescenes and titles, as well as the different segments within the book(previews, movie, intermission, etc.), along with addressing questions ofidentity rather than answering them - leaving that up to the reader. ANight at the Movies is a wonderful work for a more mature audience with atouch of movie suspense that is very effectively written, high above itsclass.

3-0 out of 5 stars Coover's book was a very confusing piece of literature.
A Night at the Movies, is an illussive postmodern novel waith a dangerous twist of cinema genres.Coover's text interest me because all of thestories in novel seem to deal with identity. This is why I found the bookconfusing.Coover's illusive words and characters makr the novel hard tofollow.Although coover's novel wasconfusing , it was not all bad.One ofCoover's overall strengths was that he is able to create the cinematicfeeling by being very desciptive.An example of his discriptive skillshows up in "Chalie in the House of Rue".Charlie discovers apolice officer sitting in a tub of water.Coover describes,"Hisuniform is black ripply beneath the surface, the brass botton appearing tofloat free"(107).This descriptiion helps you visualize the officer,asif you are in the movies watching.This book is a okay read, but is veryconfusing. I suggest if you are not a vivid reader not to read this book. Unless your teacher assigns it. which in this case you better read it. ... Read more

5. Pricksongs & Descants: Fictions
by Robert Coover
Paperback: 256 Pages (2000-03)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$6.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802136672
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Pricksongs & Descants, originally published in 1969, is a virtuoso performance that established its author - already a William Faulkner Award winner for his first novel - as a writer of enduring power and unquestionable brilliance, a promise he has fulfilled over a stellar career. It also began Coover's now-trademark riffs on fairy tales and bedtime stories. In these riotously word-drunk fictional romps, two children follow an old man into the woods, trailing bread crumbs behind and edging helplessly toward a sinister end that never comes; a husband walks toward the bed where his wife awaits his caresses, but by the time he arrives she's been dead three weeks and detectives are pounding down the door; a teenaged babysitter's evening becomes a kaleidoscope of dangerous erotic fantasies-her employer's, her boyfriend's, her own; an aging, humble carpenter marries a beautiful but frigid woman, and after he's waited weeks to consummate their union she announces that God has made her pregnant. Now available in a Grove paperback, Pricksongs & Descants is a cornerstone of Robert Coover's remarkable career and a brilliant work by a major American writer. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars An under-the-radar masterpiece
Somehow, over the years, Robert Coover has been denied the status he deserves as one of America's most original and celebrated satirists of all things red white & blue. Although almost 40 years old now, this collection of short stories still displays Coover's protean talents at their most kaleidoscopic, despite the fact these works came early in his long career.

In each of his stories, Coover takes iconic items of 20th Century American culture and holds them up to fun-house mirrors. Sometimes the Coover-modified images reveal a dark underbelly to myth, sometimes they are manically funny and sometimes they're simply warped -- but at all times, they move at breakneck speed and the wordcraft is nonpareil.

While one by no means has to be a student of American iconography to appreciate these stories, the greater one's understanding of suburban mythology he or she brings to the party, the more he or she will take away.

Coover's complex, yet extremely approachable writing gives readers the choice at what level they wish to read his work. They can be read as biting commentary on America's social mores or -- even better -- as a dazzling, runaway roller coaster ride taken for no other reason than the unadulterated joy of it. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee........... ... Read more

6. The Adventures of Lucky Pierre: Directors' Cut (Coover, Robert)
by Robert Coover
Paperback: 416 Pages (2004-02-17)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$1.06
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802140416
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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A virtuosic performance, The Adventures of Lucky Pierre is a masterpiece. It is set in Cinecity, the frozen capital of an unnamed utopia - or is it dystopia? - where Lucky Pierre plies his trade. Part porn star, part clown, part everyman, Lucky has no life outside his films. Through the lenses of his nine female muse-directors, Lucky becomes a naive castaway, a submissive slave, a child star in a barnyard frolic, a love-struck suburban hubby, a dirty cartoon, a sex-pilgrim in virtual reality, and much much more. A sparkling love song to the magic of moving pictures, and a meditation - both joyous and serious - on how sex compels and invents us, The Adventures of Lucky Pierre is a spectacular tour de force from an American master. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Perre gets lucky and nine again...
Think of the infinite cycle of revenge initiated by Fellini's 8 and a half. Yes, the dream sequence! No, not the first one, the other later on when he is living in perfect harmony with all the 8 maybe 9 women of his dreams... Broadway still sings about it! Peter Greenway tried to re-movie it HIS way... Coover's way WAY outdoes them all proving that he is firmly transmodern, transcinematic, pantronic, pornoclastic, iconomorphic! Check the references. Go to imdb.com . Verify that Coover found Lucky Pierre in Herschell Gordon Lewis 1961 forgotten naive exploit of the same name which no one cared to see or comment on. Brought Pierre out of retirement to protagonize as only he could, the brunt of feminist deconstructive romp in this newly meta-Tarrantinized nitemare of romp and stomp, this de-Ramboesque purge so telling of the times.
It is Felini lionised! It is Mastroiani finally "Slavroinized"!It is the all-consumming, selfcom-summing, sum total of all male fears penned with the supreme mastery of the pen-is-my-pained-penis only Coover commands. This is a brilliant work, in more ways than anyone can find or fathom. A slap o mastery that one can only hope, has the infinity of sequels it deserves and engenders in the mind! If you have not read it yet and you are not reading it now, what the hell are you waiting for? ... Read more

7. Stepmother (Coover, Robert)
by Robert Coover
Hardcover: 96 Pages (2004-06-10)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.86
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1932416099
Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars
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Robert Coover, a father of modern American experimental fiction, returns with "Stepmother," a masterful re-imagining of the fairy-tale tradition. There is magic, there are princes, and painful castrations. Also, there is beauty and true love, of a sort. Stepmother is illustrated by Michael Kupperman, bound in soft cloth, and stamped with precious metals. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

2-0 out of 5 stars Nothing you haven't seen before
Though Coover is undeniably a talented writer, he decides to take a very well-worn path for this book. It's a deconstructed fairy tale, one of approximately 18 billion, and the themes are familiar. Yes, the old stories were often appallingly misogynist and affirmed rigid patriarchal values, including a distrust of the other and the outsider. Yes, this was bad. Coover scores some points for not completely inverting everything- the witches aren't quite innocent, just no more brutal than everyone else- but the whole story is pretty one-note and forgettable. It offers nothing new, it just deconstructs the old, and without offering real change it's simply a grim and ugly affair.

1-0 out of 5 stars Not a retelling
Taking only the scintillating, perverted elements and adding a dark, unbounded hatred for all that is "church" this author's treatment of every story hinted at in this text is without feeling or imagination. Salman Rushdie's review that this work occupies a place of honor is an accurate gauge of his lack of taste. I found it for 1.50 in a Univ. bin and regretted the waste of a decent binding as I threw it in the trash.

5-0 out of 5 stars Coover at his best
This is a fairy tale for adults, with all the elements of those tales you knew as children, but more. The book is an easy read, entertaining, and only long enough for a short afternoon or evening. The content, illustrations, and binding guarantee that it will be parked on your library shelf. It's a great introduction to Coover, and aptly demonstrates why he will, in my opinion, gain a rightful place among our country's great authors. ... Read more

8. Ghost Town
by Robert Coover
Paperback: 160 Pages (2000-03)
list price: US$12.00 -- used & new: US$3.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802136664
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A nameless rider plods through the desert toward a dusty Western town shimmering on the horizon. In his latest novel, Robert Coover has taken the familiar form of the Western and turned it inside out. The lonesome stranger reaches the town - or rather, it reaches him - and he becomes part of its gunfights, saloon brawls, bawdy houses, train robberies, and, of course, the choice between the saloon chanteuse or the sweet-faced schoolmistress whom he loves. Throughout, Robert Coover reanimates the Western epics of Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour, infusing them with the Beckettian echoes, unique comic energy, and exuberant prose that have made him one of the most influential figures in contemporary American literature. It is, as The Washington Post Book World put it, "a fast-forward, ribald vision of the American West, a free-for-all that slides from surreal to ridiculous like a circus-goer's grin through a funhouse mirror . . . a heady frisson, a salon entertainment, one helluva ride."Amazon.com Review
Cross CormacMcCarthy with EugeneIonesco and you might get something like Robert Coover's GhostTown. The hero of this spaghetti Western is an unnamed cowboyriding along through a "vast empty plain, where nothing seems to havehappened yet and yet everything seems already over...." Exhausted andparched, he sets his sights across the distant horizon only to findhimself overtaken--literally--by a small, seemingly deserted littletown. With the immutable logic of a dream, he becomes caught up in astrange, disjointed chain of events, in which drunken gamblers declarehim sheriff and a saloon chanteuse stakes him out for her own.Meanwhile, the cowboy carries a torch for a melancholy, pale-facedwoman known as the schoolmarm, who has a disturbing propensity forcorrecting his grammar while slapping his face. If, after wanderingthrough Ghost Town's bloody streets for a while, readers findthemselves suspecting that this is one of them newfangledmetafictions, Coover will not disappoint. He plants the requisiteempty plain-empty page analogies, and the book's denouement is nothingless than sexuality and textuality in a showdown at high noon. Butthere is more here than mere postmodern pastiche. Coover writes withprodigious intellectual energy and quicksilver wit; his sentences arenever less than surprising, and often possess a sublime beauty alltheir own. As for his take on the genre's conventions, Coover may havestruck closer to home than we think. Long stretches of tediuminterrupted by flashes of hallucinatory violence: in its own bizarreway, Ghost Town might be the most realistic depiction of theOld West in a very long time. --Mary Park ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars A definitively postmodern western.
I enjoyed this book immensely.Fans of metafiction--that is, fiction about the way fiction works--will find much to enjoy here.Readers looking for a linear storyline and 'realistic' plot should probably stay away.As mentioned before, 'GHOST TOWN' is perhaps best described as a send-up of the Cormac McCarthry western in the style, perhaps, of Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthemle or Italo Calvino.It is rather imperative that one understands and appreciates the metafiction aesthetic, at least in general, if s/he plans to get anything approaching enjoyment out of this novel.Otherwise, there is a significant chance that you will come away rather frustrated.If this sounds like something you think you might enjoy then I'd be willing to bet that you will.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Delight From Beginning To End
This is the first Robert Coover book I have read, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Some of the dialog was so funny, I had to laugh out loud. The style in which this was written is so refreshing; unlike anything I have read. It's like 'The Twilight Zone' meets 'Gunsmoke' or something. This book may not appeal to all readers, but for me, it was perfectly entertaining. I look forward to reading more of Robert Coover's books.

2-0 out of 5 stars More Over praised Fiction
Ghost Town, Robert Coover (7/02): This is an amazing novel in that it is simultaneously juvenile and pretentious.This attempt at a Beckian version of Cormak McCarthy succeeds on no level.The long drawn out prose are neither poetic nor sparse.The re-visioning of the cowboy myth, by portraying a violent grotesque environment, only come off as silly and has been done before.I could not tell whether the frequent, homey existential quips by the cowboys were supposed to make fun the of the genre or were meant to be profound. Yet, they succeeded at neither.In short, this is another over-praised novel by an author of noteworthy intentions but little original skill needed to pull it off.

4-0 out of 5 stars The bloodiest knife fight in fiction history
Less disconnected than some Coover books I've read, Ghost Town borrows elements from literary and hollywood westerns and gives them a subversive and often graphic edge.At times a wonderful read with passages that flow beautifully and at other times harsh and violent.It contains the single bloodiest knife fight in fiction history.All in all a risky venture but Coover blends these two opposites and keeps it together through the end.

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing genreless genre fiction
Those who come to Coover from his earlier works are well-prepared for this remarkable synthesis of excellent language, excellent description, excellent mood. Those new to Coover will delight in their discovery. Ghost Town is somehow less earnest, more effortless, than earlier Coover, and is more mature for it. Here is a novel that makes no apologies, denies an association with the "modern novel," and expertly ignores the western as genre by setting itself right in the middle of it. In Coover's Ghost Town, genre cliches become literary devices, and stereotypes become grammatical foils. Critics (not to mention grad students) will be playing with this one for years; casual readers will carry it around with them and read their favorite bits over and over again for even longer. ... Read more

9. Gerald's Party (Coover, Robert)
by Robert Coover
Paperback: 320 Pages (1997-09-25)
list price: US$12.00 -- used & new: US$4.24
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802135285
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Robert Coover's wicked and surreally comic novel takes place at a chilling, ribald, and absolutely fascinating party. Amid the drunken guests, a woman turns up murdered on the living room floor. Around the corpse, one of several the evening produces, Gerald's party goes on — a chatter of voices, names, faces, overheard gags, rounds of storytelling, and a mounting curve of desire. What Coover has in store for his guests (besides an evening gone mad) is part murder mystery, part British parlor drama, and part sly and dazzling meditation on time, theater, and love.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars If the Apocalypse were a party in the suburbs...
--it would look something like the shindig being thrown in Robert Coovers *Geralds Party.* Think Sartres *No Exit* but with a lot more guests, a lot more sex, and a lot more dead folks.Youre not reading this book for plot, anymore than you'd read Samuel Beckett for plot, so don't expect anything to really `happen' in the conventional sense. Nor should you expect anything to be resolved--or even make `sense.' In other words, this novel is a lot like life, only without all the humanizing illusions that ordinarily shield us from what lies just beneath.As such, Coover throws a party that is largely a battlefield of warring lusts, jealousies, rages, and largely futile yearnings after transcendence--a party that reveals the radically anti-social beneath the social conventions that draw us together. Having said that, this is an extremely funny text, a comedy, if you will, in the classical sense of that term, in the Dantesque sense, surely...this being a party that could easily be taking place in Hell, if Hell were the home of a typically married couple in suburbia, which, of course, it all too often is.

Language, too, is an important part of this novel--the sensual labyrinth of expression that words, as words, can take and Coover is a master at weaving words into a reality all their own.He has, in fact, `reinvented' the world in his unique and distinctive style which is an accomplishment only the very best writers of any generation achieve.Coover is, indeed, one of the very best, and *Geralds Party* may be his finest book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Humanity: What a riot!
"Gerald's Party" depicts a single evening in the life of Gerry, a married man who has opened his home to a flood of strange friends, and describes the chaotic string of strange events which occur. The book is written in real time, its 300 pages comprising a single narrative, unbroken by chapters, from the party's beginning to its end. Gerry is the narrator, proceeding from event to event, unable to control anything, and hardly able to understand anything, including himself.

The book is experimental, but does have a plot, concerning a murder-mystery at Gerry's party of strange guests. The story is told in the tradition of surrealists, however, and not a straightforward narrative. Once the reader settles into understanding how the story works, it becomes a joyful romp through mad times.

The theme of the book is very simple: life is a major mess, and it just keeps going. People eat and drink, sleep and sex, live and die, digest and waste, kill and protect, mate monogamously and share polyamorally, control themselves and let themselves go, have children and have fun, grow up and act childish, dirty and clean, dress and undress, lie and speak true, think scientifically and think artistically, fantasize and live pragmatically, search for philosophical meaning and live hedonistically for today. And they never stop! Robert Coover pushes all the buttons in the psyche of the human animal, as if writing a reference manual for an extraterrestrial, telling it: "Here's humanity. Welcome to it!"

This book is experimental and surreal, but arguably more accessible than Beckett, and certainly more earthy and explicit. (This is so Coover can push all your buttons.) It uses an interesting form of dialog occasionally: two or three different conversations interweave their lines, making it a joyful challenge to follow along, and creating interesting intersections at times. There are two dozen characters, all with their own independent dynamic, and Coover mixes them with entertaining effect. Some are consistent, such as the wife, the son, the mother-in-law, and others, who exercise their own unique idiosyncracies steadily throughout the book, like pschological points of reference interweaving with the other characters.

This book is very well done. I cannot praise it highly enough. Coover deserves immense credit for pulling it all off. Once the reader understands the story is meant to be absurd, not literal, it becomes great fun, very vivid, and memorable. Coover is extremely imaginative, and "Gerald's Party" is a fantastic riot.

3-0 out of 5 stars f'd up.
This is a very intelligent, beautifully written book; yet, for me, there just was not enough natural momentum to carry the whole thing off.Time...one of the main obsessions in the life of this novel, and the idea of Time being nonexistent, and ever the same with only spacial relations changing is one that is dwelled on by some of the characters.And that's the problem with this novel, with the idea of time thrown out the window every page read the exact same.Read any 30 pages and you will enjoy them immensly but to keep it up for 300 pages is more stamina than i could produce.

There were so many funny scenes though!! But, like a David Lynch movie, after awhile the bizzarities just become repetitive and annoying, with nothing deeper underlying them.Some of the kids from Coover's generations (Barth, Vonnegut, kind of Barthelme) seem to do things that would be more fun to think up and write than to actually read.With these guys (i hate to group, but oh well) you can almost always imagine them slyly smiling behind the page at their zany little creation or attack on the prevailing form of fiction.It often comes off as too academic.

At the same time not at all... there is way more chaos and madness than most uptight, imaginitively limited professors could ever handle, brimming in blood, unsound meditations, dizzying desire... i guess i dont know what to think about this novel... i kind of think Coover may be one of those writers who sometime down the road i will want to scream at myself for ever criticizing.

5-0 out of 5 stars the fall of the West
Here is a book that is apparently about decadence.All of the charactersare in some way connected to the theater community and artifice istherefore their business.There is a great deal of confusion between whatis real and what is feigned, imagined, projected or merely confusing.Thereader sees everything through the eyes and mind of the eponymous partyhost.Gerald is a womanizer and a hopeless relativist.For most of theevening he tries to understand and rationalize increasingly outrageousbehavior on the part of his party guests and the police who come toinvestigate the murder of one his party guests.

Yes, this is a murdermystery, or at least it is a parody of one.The number of dead bodies thatturn up is never certain, but there at least four.The first body (and theonly murder that the police investigate) is that of Ros, a bad actress anda loose woman who is much beloved by everyone at the party, male andfemale. She is an innocent, a creature of pure impulse and she isbeautiful.But as the evening progresses you realize that no one reallyknows her and that she is perhaps unknowable.At some point Cooversuggests that she is the personification of Truth; the police detectivereveals that Ros looks exactly like a mysterious woman who he has met onlyin his dreams and who his therapist has told him symbolizes Truth.

Cooveruses people's memories and ritual use of the body of Ros to show that thiscommunity (apparently representing all of us) has a very shakeyrelationship with the Truth.Ros is all things to all people.Some partyguests initially keen hysterically over her loss, while others simply shaketheir heads and pretend to have seen it coming.In the course of theevening, however, she is reduced to a memory and her body to a stage propand a symbol.

Coover repeatedly juxtaposes the mundane with thehorrifying.Policemen eat sandwiches while they are beating recalcitrantguests.Gerald's wife shows off the sewing room to the new neighbors whilehe is lying on the floor of the same room unable to remove his penis from ateenager that he has just (accidentally) deflowered.In order to getbetter light on the shot a cameraman asks Gerald to move to one side whilehe is comforting his best friend, who as been shot in the heart by thepolice.

This is a hilarious and depressing book.If you don't have astrong stomach for irony or don't think that debauchery is funny, then itprobably isn't for you.If you enjoy being told that the bourgeoise aregoing (have gone) to hell in a handbasket, then read with pleasure.

5-0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully ridiculous metafiction novel.
This was my third Coover novel. I had read "Origin of the Brunists" and "A Night at the Movies" a few years ago. "Gerald's Party" is an account of a party gone wildly out ofcontrol in every way possible. The story climaxes with an impropmtu andhighly metaphorical theatre production in Gerald's living room, mind you,involving all the (surviving) characters (clothed and unclothed) thatsummaraizes the whole concept of the book. How many parties have you beento like that?! The dialogue is from people all over the house (in whateverroom Gerald is in at the time), all mixed in with, and at the same time ashis own conversations. The prose gets hazier as the night goes on and themultiple-conversation thing does too but it's all in the name of anaccurate party aesthetic. It's difficult to latch onto at first but wellworth it. Up there with Barth's "Lost in the Funhouse" as animportant and tricky but really fun fiction work about fiction. Sit backand enjoy it like I did, but don't get fooled. Sweet vermouthon the rocksis never a good idea. I don't care who's drinking it or what they looklike. ... Read more

10. The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.
by Robert Coover
Paperback: 256 Pages (1971-05-01)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$9.52
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B001R23FRA
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A satirical fable with a rootless and helpless accountant as the protagonist. Alone in his apartment, he spends all his nights and weekends playing an intricate baseball game of his own invention. The author has won the William Faulkner Award and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (25)

5-0 out of 5 stars Book review
Classic novel.If you grew up pre-video game revolution, enjoy baseball, keeping statistics, and games that employ dice, then you'll love this one.

What distinguishes this book is that it evolves from a superficial layer of humor and athletics into a philisophical/theological realm by the book's end.It deals with issues like human connection and the "why are we here - what does it all mean?" questions as well.It certainly delves far deeper than your typical baseball novel.

4-0 out of 5 stars Intellectually brilliant but humanly lacking
This book is an elaborate intellectual game.Coover brilliantly tells the story of another kind of creator, his main character, Henry Waugh who makes up his own major- leagues and creates the games through which they go through the season. It seems that the whole exercise has a large number of possible interpretations.
And in fact the work comes to read for me as largely an exercise more devoted to what literary critics will say, than what readers will feel.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Boxscores Were Enough
I don't recommend this book for the faint of heart. While you can summarize the basic story of "The Universal Baseball Association" in a few words, the actual reading experience is far more intense than a summary would suggest. This book celebrates the myth of baseball as American creation in just about the darkest way imaginable.

The novel's set-up is an appealing one. J. Henry Waugh (whose initials read YAHWEH) took eight of the original post-Civil War major league franchises, populated them entirely with players of his own invention, and evolved his league through dozens of seasons via a tabletop, dice-activated baseball game of his own design. The league begins to consume his life in its 56th season -- and his 56th year. It sounds fun to take on a project like this. Indeed, on the Internet you can even find recreations of the UBA charts as J. Henry Waugh may have designed them.

As the book goes on, however, progressively fewer paragraphs are devoted to the point of view of our protagonist. Rather, Henry's players -- unaware of his very existence -- begin to do all the talking for him. The slide begins innocently enough: Henry leaves work a few minutes early one Wednesday afternoon so he can reread the boxscore of a perfect game one of "his" rookies pitched the night before. While reading, he imagines the past greats of his league telling stories about the early years. In one of the book's funnier moments, one of those old-time players is suddenly cut off in mid-quote when Henry realizes that the man in question is, in fact, dead.

Thus we learn more about Henry's league: His players live full lives after retirement from the playing field, and can even marry, have children, and die. The league structure involves politics, intrigue, romance, music -- sometimes all at once. One of the book's more gruesome in-jokes is retold in a ballad that Henry wrote to celebrate the exploits of one "Long Lew Lydell".

As the book progresses, Coover writes verbose yet carefully structured passages in which Henry vanishes entirely, replaced by the players taking increasing free reign over his subconscious. What the players say in Henry's head is a subtle distortion of what Henry's just been through. Henry's take on women is colored, for example, by the fact that his girlfriend charges by the hour; his players have dreams which mirror his own anxieties. It gets so that Henry can't even complete a conversation with the few acquaintainces in his life, without the players' voices intruding. This becomes progressively more disturbing, especially if you note what happens during Henry's final appearance in the book.

You can't blame Henry for leaving behind such a dreary accounting job; he is escaping into a richer world than did Bartleby, for example. In fact, you could put the book down after Chapter 7 and read it as a happy ending. In 2005, I'd almost venture to say that "Office Space"-type fantasies retroactively make Henry one of the first heroes of the so-called information age. One of the key questions at the end: are we meant to feel sympathy for Henry at the end? Empathy? Pity? Disgust?

What gives "Universal Baseball Association" its life is not the baseball scenes or the office scenes, but rather the depth and texture of Henry's increasingly complicated fantasy sequences. You can see the entropy in Henry's universe by comparing the player names in the final chapter to those in the first two chapters, before things started to go wrong. While difficult to get through -- this is certainly not a beach book, although that's where I read most of it -- "Universal Baseball Association" rewards repeated readings once you overcome the queasy feelings caused by entering Henry's subconscious.

You will also vow never to play Strat-O-Matic Baseball again.

4-0 out of 5 stars Homo Ludens
When I was in middle school, I was perhaps a little too much in love with a Nintendo football game called Tecmo Bowl.The game was great.I played out an entire season of NFL games using the video game teams, recording wins, losses, which teams made the playoffs, and keeping a running total of the player's stats for the season.I would even pretend to be the announcer, and sometimes recorded my commentary (painfully inane if I ever listened to it afterwards).Then I would go out in the back yard and reenact the highlights from each game.In many respects, I was similar to the protagonist of Robert Coover's The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.: J. Henry Waugh, Prop., who devises an intricate version of simulated baseball that he plays in his kitchen with dice.The difference is that I was twelve.Henry is fifty-seven.

To escape from reality into a world of imagination is regarded as endearing and encouraging in children - in adults, it seems pathetic and disturbing.As the novel progresses, we see how far Henry has taken his obsession: he concocts life stories for the players, composes songs supposedly popular in the alternate reality inhabited by the UBA, conducts pretend interviews, writes newspaper articles, lines his shelves with record books, and even conflates events of his own life with the lives of the players - and vice versa.What could drive a man to do all this?Certainly not a love for the game.In fact, Henry admits that real baseball bores him.Possible explanations seem to be desire for control, intense boredom, overwhelming feelings of isolation, or simply inability to mature and face the problems of adult life.

However, we are not given a simple explanation for Henry's habit, nor are we led to believe that his actions are to be thought of in a negative light.In many ways, Henry's Association is an exemplification of mankind's drive to create.This issue - is Henry hiding or creating? - forms the most compelling theme of The Universal Baseball Association, as well of providing much of Henry's internal conflict.

But Coover isn't content to deliver a novel with a simple theme, or ask simple questions - and therein lays both the novel's greatness and its folly.We encounter lengthy stream-of-consciousness passages, during which Henry's mind loses the ability to distinguish creation from reality.We hear Henry presented as a god, complete with powers over life and death.We are treated to parallels between creation, destruction, war, and the curious relationship between omnipotence and impotence.The entire last chapter sounds like Absurdist Theater.As we near the end, there can be no doubt that Henry is an overt schizophrenic, and yet, like Humbert Humbert, Henry has a way of making sickness seem normal.

In the opulent extravagance of the novel lies a certain genius.The flights of fancy taken by Henry's supple mind suggest meaning on a wide variety of levels.Not all of it succeeds, especially when Coover digresses into the topic of sex.Still, the book succeeds overall, both as narrative and as commentary on the nature of man.By the end, the association becomes Henry's entire system of meaning - his way of exploring good, evil, purpose, and nihilism.Perhaps answering metaphysical questions using dice is absurd, but perhaps not.As Henry reflects, "You roll, Player A gets a hit or he doesn't, gets his man out or he doesn't.Sounds simple.But call Player A 'Sycamore Flynn' or 'Melbourne Trench' and something starts to happen.He shrinks or grows, stretches out or puts on muscle....Strange. But name a man and you make him what he is."

4-0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Allegory of Something or Other
The basic story of Coover's book is quite simple.Henry Waugh creates an intricate single-player baseball game that's played with dice.He plays entire seasons with his eight-team league; he keeps detailed statistics for every player and every game; he creates backstories and personalities for his players; he develops an administrative body for his league and imagines political debates among the players; and he acts as an official historian of the league, writing volumes of stories about the game and its players.When something shocking and unexpected occurs within the game, Henry gradually loses the ability to distinguish between reality and imagined events within the game.In the end, he is more or less consumed by his game.

As the synopsis above no doubt suggests, this story begs to be read as an allegory.One might read it as an allegory of God's relation to His creation.Henry, like God, is a creator who appears to have complete control over his creation, and yet, like God, his creation comes to take on a life of its own.When terrible things occur, he desperately wants to step in and set things right, but he also wants the game to retain its integrity.So Henry is like God in that he remains outside his creation even though it seems he could sometimes intervene to set things right.(Indeed, some of the game's players are said to have some sense of a higher power controlling their destiny.)One might also read Henry's relation to his game as an allegory of man's attempt to make sense of his world through art, religion, science, philosophy, etc.All that's really going on is the random event of rolling the dice, as, in some sense, all that's really going on in the universe is certain random physical events.And yet Henry imagines an entire alternate reality to make sense of the random events of his game.His player backgrounds and psychologies, his historical interpretations of the game, his imaginings of crowds and stadiums--all of this is intended to give the random throws of the dice some meaning, some significance to him.(This reading is also suggested by our one look at Henry at work in his job as an accountant.Rather than merely crunch the numbers, he reads a story of the operation of a business off his accounting books.He makes sense of the numbers by seeing them as evidence of something beyond themselves.)Finally, one might interpret Henry's relation to his game as an allegory of the artist's relation to his works.

These allegorical readings notwithstanding, it's also possible to read this book as a simple and moving story of one isolated man who gradually loses touch with reality.While Henry seems a decent enough chap, he has no family, only one friend (and not an especially close one), no real love interest, and no interests outside of his game.From what we learn in the novel, it seems his entire life consists in (occasionally) going to work at his mind-numbing job, stopping at the local bar to drown his sorrows, and sitting at his kitchen table playing his game.Since Henry's life is thoroughly dull and uneventful from the outside, the book focuses on what's going on in his mind.The focus of the book is his isolation and his attempts to create something important and lasting and to be a part of something larger than himself.The opportunity to create something important is what the game appears to provide him, and so it's not all that surprising that he ends up losing himself in his game.

This, of course, suggests that Henry can be understood as an example of the way in which alienated individuals can get lost in solitary pursuits that are made available to them by modern life.Because he lacks an community of people with which to identify, Henry ends up getting lost in his game in much the same way that others can get lost in books, television, the internet, etc.All of these things appear to provide their user with a connection to a world beyond himself, and yet total immersion in them brings you no closer to other people than you'd be without them.

I'd give this book 4.5 stars if I could; that seems a more accurate assessment.The reader should note that this isn't really a baseball book.It's more about the trappings of baseball--the statistics, the history, the players, the rites--than it is about the game itself.So this isn't a book for someone looking for a presentation of dramatic athletic feats; instead, it's a book for the baseball fan whose appreciation of the game is intellectual rather than visceral. ... Read more

11. Pinocchio in Venice (Coover, Robert)
by Robert Coover
Paperback: 330 Pages (1997-01-10)
list price: US$13.50 -- used & new: US$5.00
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Asin: 0802134858
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Internationally renowned author Robert Coover returns with a major new novel set in Venice and featuring one of its most famous citizens, Pinocchio. The result is a brilliant philosophical discourse on what it means to be human; a hilarious, bawdy adventure; and a fitting tribute to the history, grandeur, and decay of Venice itself. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars In life there are no happily ever afters
"So Pinocchio gets his wish and becomes a real boy. And he lives happily ever after." If only life were like a fairy tale. We would all be loved and protected by our mothers and fathers forever and none of us would ever grow old or suffer the infirmities of aging. Unfortunately, like everyone else, Pinocchio does grow old and may even be dying. Despite having had a successful life in academia in America and having achieved world-wide renown as an art scholar, an author, and as a two time Nobel Prize winner, in his dotage Pinocchio looks back upon a life filled with unhappiness and regret. Unlike the often inaccurate Disney biography, Gepetto, his creator and father, was not a kindly old man, nor did his mother, the blue-haired fairy, keep all the promises she made to him during his boyhood. To add to Pinocchio's agony, various bodily parts and his skin are falling off, his feet had been burnt off in a fire, and his nose is not what it is purported to be. Worst of all, he is once again turning into a piece of wood.

In the book Pinocchio is shown returning to his birth place, Venice, and is reunited with his old friends (including two talking dogs) and foes alike. He attends a wild and raucous masked carnival in which he is the guest of honor.

Robert Coover is a marvelously imaginative story teller. His use of language and imagery transforms Pinocchio's surroundings into a panorama of grotesque characters and nightmarish situations. Pinocchio is presented not as a puppet, but as a true to life human being of great dignity. He suffers the universal fears of growing old: leaving unfinished business, failures in love, the attending loss of physical and mental powers, and the inevitability of death. All this is realistically and sensitively rendered by Mr. Coover.

4-0 out of 5 stars Venice in ruins, I enjoy to rebuild.
Coover has no truck with the security, the romantic haze even, the complacent ease with which the story of Venice is enshrouded, and seeks to shatter the rosy-red miasma that surrounds all things Venetian.Thus destabilised, the reader becomes prey (open to?) a new, more unsettling, and ultimately keener edged storytelling (the safety of the familiar overthrown).Pinocchio is cindered:forget his feet, he is totalised.There is a huge energy in reframing the familiar, and seeing it so vividly anew.Readers ought to be pachyderms to deal with the "every canal an open sewer" of Coover's scatalogical depositary of a book.But suspend your sense of disbelief (probably meaning nausea) and revel in the language - it has more arabesques and whirls, more swoops and pirouettes than anything contemporary you are likely to read (at the rear end of a Vaporetto, lazily sweeping along Tronchetto, or past Zattere...) Those evil frog-types - Venice will never be the same again.

5-0 out of 5 stars Is Robert Coover the best living american writer?
I bought this book in Tokyo at Kinokuniya bookstore in 1991. I had never read anything by Coover before. The first thing I noticed was that the guy could write; write as well as Beckett; that he was a follower of Beckett, actually. From the first to the last word I was awed by his command of the english sentence.I remembered Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio well, so I was also delighted by the internal jokes, by the playful, carnival-like atmosphere of the book.

Masterworks like Spanking the Maid, Charlie in the House of Rue and Ghost Town have only confirmed the fact that Coover is on a different level from other american novelists.

Let's face it, american fiction has plummeted from the zenith it reached in the days of Hemingway and Faulkner.Those two writers could be put side by side with Kafka and Borges as short story writers; or Joyce, Celine and Beckett as novelists. Hemingway and Faulkner even created writing styles that lesser writers copied, pasted and edited. After the war we have Nabokov, almost at the same level as the great pair; then we have Bellow, Mailer and Salinger, a little below in the pecking order; and then Roth and Barth, ditto; and later on: Pynchon, Anne Tyler, Carver,etc. An almost perfect example of the law of diminishing returns. I say almost because there are some exceptions: Flannery O'Connor and Robert Coover being two of the most notable.

That much said,this is one of Coover's best books, a little childish in places, but a delight from beginning to end.And after all, Hemingway and Faulkner were only two great writers, so if we could only get someone to pair with Coover as the other towering figure in contemporary American Lit(Annie Dillard or Grace Pailey, maybe) we'll be, not even, but close enough to that peak.

3-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant without being enjoyable
Before tackling this book by that real boy, that master of juvenile linguistic pyrotechnics(some of Coover's convoluted sentences are as witty as anything written by anyone in English this century) the reader, andthere won't be too many casual or should I say causal readers, should studythe original Pinnochio. Those whose familiarity with Pinnochio comes onlyfrom the Disney movie won't get the in-jokes. What's with the obsessionwith Pinnochio among post-modern authors of coldly intellectual books thatappeal only to other writers who teach writing? I'm thinking of JeromeCharyn's send up of Pinnochio, "Pinnochio's Nose," anotherpicaresque novel that was a virtuoso performance, but instantlyforgettable.

4-0 out of 5 stars parodistic intertextuality par excellence
"Pinocchio" certainly is postmodern literature at its best. This book reverses Collodi's fairy-tale ( so don't be surprised when the puppet becomes a piece of wood again at the end of the story ), fills the blanksleft open in the original tale with some hilariously funny and sometimesabsurdly unreal stories, and, moreover, mixes everything with excerpts fromquite a few literary classics, "Don Quixote" and "Death inVenice" among them. Big-time comedy and good entertainment guaranteed! ... Read more

12. John's Wife
by Robert Coover
Paperback: 428 Pages (1997-04-18)
list price: US$27.95 -- used & new: US$2.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684830434
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The bestselling author of "The Public Burning" spins a darkly magical tale about life in an ordinary small town and the woman who casts a spell on its inhabitants. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars A dense and difficult treat
Is that a contradiction? Perhaps. The mountains of expository prose without dialougue breaks or chapter divisions make this a forbidding work, and yet Coover's prose is so incandescent, so witty with its turns ofphrase, puns, and moments of sublime insight that I couldn't put it down.The first half of the book is a satire on small town life, the second halfis both surreal and sad, but engaging throughout. I especially liked thecontrast between John and John's Wife, between the man of action(destructive action) and his evanescent spouse, as if Coover werecontrasting the world and the spirit in this unlikely paring. A excellentbook, and I plan to read more by this author

4-0 out of 5 stars A metronomic meditation on how we avoid our Selves
I had never heard of Coover before seeing the book in the discount section of a bookstore.The first paragraph of the book was on the cover, and it was so well written, so interesting, that I purchased it on the spot.

While I am glad to have met this obviously skilled writer, the bookwas tough to get through because it maintained one clever, ironic tone andnever waivered (although it was well written).It was almost hypnotic inits metronomic leaping from character to character, and the omnipotentviewpoint of the narrator was claustrophobic and omnipresent.I wanted tograb the narrator and demand that he (yes, he) release his monopolisticgrip on defining the reality of this town, and let the people in it definethemselves.

I kept waiting for the characters to have even the slightestglimmer of self-awareness, and just when they appeared to reach this point,the author had them chicken out or choose the easy path and sink back intothe self-deluded oblivion of their small town lives and loves.

And, inthe end, that is what this book is all about--how we bury ourselves inself-delusions of grandeur, greed, sex, food, money, lust, work, religion,and art in order to obscure our own cowardice from ourselves.Cooverleaves us with an incredibly bleak (if comedic) view of suburban life, butlet's face it, like all dark comedies, it is the truth that makes it haverelevance.

The title character, John's Wife, is the ultimate focal pointof all of the character's neurotic longings.Not surprisingly, she is atotal figment of their corporate imagination, so much so that she has noindependent existence at all, not even a name.

As the characters becomeengulfed by their neurotic behavior and longings, they lose their focus onJohn's Wife and she starts to disappear and reappear in startling ways.Atthe climax of the novel, with the very fabric of reality tearing apart (allsorts of fantastic things occur with bewildering normalcy), John's Wife hasdisappeared altogether, except for a few mercy visits to try to heal thewounds like the Virgin Mary miraculously appearing.Life only becomesstabilized (if remaining incredibly vacuous) in the morning light when thiscentral fantasy (John's Wife) reappears and is restored tocentrality.

One can read each of the neurotic characters as one aspect ofone personality--say, the author, who invites this transference through his"Artist as Editor" character.In a sense, we have internalizedall sorts of neurotic habits in order to mask the larger unpleasanttruth--that we are solely responsible for our own happiness andself-development, and that facing into our Selves is beyond our capacity. And we then focus our efforts on one unreal, externalized, unattainablegoal--John's Wife--so as to fool ourselves into thinking that we are makingprogress.

Have I read too much into what other reviewers have seen merelyas a dark comment on suburbanism?Possibly, but the author invites thisspeculation, which raises this book above the level of just a good read to,dare I say it, art.

3-0 out of 5 stars James Joyce Meets Harold Robbins
Coover's lengthy tome presents the intertwined tales of the lives ofbizarre folks in a small town.The pseudo-stream-of-consciousness stylingnecessitates constant repetition of basic facts about the characters, sothat the reader doesn't forget who's who.Despite my average rating, Istuck with it to the end, who knows, maybe you will too. ... Read more

13. First Person; Conversations on Writers and Writing With Glenway Wescott, John DOS Passos, Robert Penn Warren, John Updike, John Barth, Robert Coover
 Hardcover: 159 Pages (1974-02)
list price: US$9.50
Isbn: 0912756039
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14. Understanding Robert Coover (Understanding Contemporary American Literature)
by Brian K. Evenson
Hardcover: 192 Pages (2003-01-01)
list price: US$39.95 -- used & new: US$22.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1570034826
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In Understanding Robert Coover, Brian Evenson takes on the work of Robert Coover, a major figure of postmodern metafiction. In a careful analysis of Coover's short stories and novels, Evenson demonstrates how Coover writes in several different modes that cross over into one another. He explores Coover's concern with notions of community and the ways communities hold together through a series of shared stories and myths--myths that often, once they lose their effectiveness, come to justify violence.

In this comprehensive study, Evenson discusses Coover’s novels, from his award-winning first book, The Origin of the Brunists, to his controversial The Public Burning--which has as its narrator the young Vice President Richard Nixon. He studies the writer’s reworkings of fairy tales in Pricksongs & Descants, Pinocchio in Venice, and Briar Rose, as well as the revisionary Western, Ghost Town.Evenson also examines Coover’s latest novel, The Adventures of Lucky Pierre: Director’s Cut.

Evenson explicates Coover's rewriting of myths and explores his willingness to break the frame of his fiction so as to include both fantastic and realistic elements. Evenson also shows that, for Coover, storymaking is essential to what makes us human, and for that reason his ideas remain at the heart of what makes literature dynamic and intriguing. Understanding Robert Coover addresses these issues, and explicates Coover's often difficult and formally innovative fiction. ... Read more

15. The Metafictional Muse: The Work of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme and William H. Gass (Critical Essays in Modern Literature)
by Larry McCaffery
 Hardcover: 300 Pages (1982-10)
list price: US$49.95 -- used & new: US$83.77
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0822934620
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16. Robert Coover (Twayne's United States authors series ; TUSAS 400)
by Richard Andersen
 Unknown Binding: 156 Pages (1981)

Isbn: 0805773304
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17. Robert Coover: The Universal Fictionmaking Process (A Chicago Classic)
by Professor Lois Gordon
 Hardcover: 192 Pages (1983-03-21)
list price: US$21.00
Isbn: 0809310929
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With works ranging thematically and stylis­tically from The Universal Baseball Association to The Public Burning, from Pricksongs and Descants to Spanking the Maid, Robert Coover emerges as one of the most vibrant writers from a remarkable avant-garde that in the mid­-1960s mounted serious assault on traditional ideas of form and content in world literature.


Lois Gordon here defines Coover’s novels, short stories, and plays in terms of his con­temporaries: among Americans, Donald Bar­thelme, William Gass, John Hawkes, and others; among Europeans, Julio Cortazar, Robert Pinget, and Italo Calvino, to name a few. These writers dismiss the conventions of traditional form—linear plot, character development, definable theme, Aristotle’s unities of time and space—as no longer ap­propriate in the modern world.


Coover writes in a dazzling variety of forms and styles; in each he demonstrates a diversity of the style and manipulates the trappings of every conventional form—from Old Comedy to theater of the absurd. He also translates or transposes techniques associated with other art forms, such as film montage or operatic interlude. In Coover’s hands, any of these forms are fair game for parody. Gordon notes: “Coover’s method, more specifically is this: at the same time that he maintains a strong narrative line he coun­terpoints it (his musical term is ‘descants’) with numerous mythic, legendary, or sym­bolic levels… which serve to explode any final meaning or resting point.” Nothing is static—personality, event, human values. Coover writes about a continual flux in which everything is constantly qualified and dramatically altered. He portrays the public and private rituals that man construes “to barter inner and outer disorder.”

... Read more

18. Comic Sense: Reading Robert Coover, Stanley Elkin, Philip Roth (International Cooper Series in English Language and Literature)
by Thomas Pughe
 Paperback: 195 Pages (1994-04-01)
list price: US$49.95 -- used & new: US$45.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 3764350237
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Product Description
This text aims to increase the reader's understanding of the comic in the work of three major contemporary North American writers. It tries, on the one hand, to do justice to the specificity of the "oeuvre" of each of the writers it deals with and, on the other, to come to grips with the comic as a theoretical problem of the criticism of much contemporary fiction. The term "comic sense" implies both a quality of the fiction discusssed in this book and a particular way of reading this fiction. Pughe concentrates mainly on the texts of his three authors: Robert Coover's "A Night at the Movies" and "The Public Burning", Stanley Elkin's "The Dick Gibson Show", "The Franchiser" and "The Magic Kingdom" and Philip Roth's Zuckerman series. His readings are based on a reconsideration of traditional and modern theories of the comic and show that the literary significance of the texts discussed here is closely intertwined with the authors' - and their readers' - comic sense. ... Read more

19. Robert Coover: A Study of the Short Fiction (Twayne's Studies in Short Fiction)
by Thomas E. Kennedy
 Hardcover: 153 Pages (1992-07)
list price: US$24.95
Isbn: 0805783474
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20. Robert Coover's Fictions
by Professor Jackson I. Cope
 Hardcover: 168 Pages (1986-10-01)
list price: US$30.00 -- used & new: US$24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0801833655
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