Robert Coover Coover, Robert (Vol. 161) - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Robert Coover 1932-

(Full name Robert Lowell Coover) American novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenwriter, and editor.

The following entry presents an overview of Coover's career through 2000. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 3, 7, 15, 32, 46, and 87.

Among the vanguard of American postmodern writers to come of age during the late 1960s, Coover is respected as a vital experimentalist whose challenging work continues to offer insight into the nature of literary creation, narrative forms, and cultural myths. Convinced early in his career that traditional fictional modes were exhausted, Coover has pioneered a variety of inventive narrative techniques, notably complex metafictional structures and ludic pastiches of various genres to satirize contemporary American society and the role of the author. In this way, he has attempted to subvert and revitalize older, cliché-ridden literary forms. In novels such as Gerald's Party (1986), Pinocchio in Venice (1991), and Ghost Town (1998), Coover offers idiosyncratic reworkings of the detective story, the fairy tale, and the Western, respectively. Likewise, in The Public Burning (1977), one of Coover's most acclaimed works, he reinterprets events from twentieth-century American history. Since the early 1990s, upon predicting the demise of the novel, Coover has also taken a leading role in the development of “hyperfiction” and other computer-based literary experiments.

Biographical Information

Born Robert Lowell Coover in Charles City, Iowa, Coover moved with his family early in his life to Herrin, Illinois, where his father was the managing editor for the Herrin Daily Journal. Emulating his father, Coover edited and wrote for various school newspapers under the nom-de-plume “Scoop.” He was also his high-school class president, a school band member, and an enthusiastic supporter of the Cincinnati Reds. In 1949 Coover enrolled in Southern Illinois University, and, after transferring to Indiana University in 1951, earned his bachelor's degree in 1953 with a major in Slavonic languages. While in college, he continued editing student papers, as well as working part-time for his father's newspaper. The day he graduated, Coover received his draft notice and went on to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserve during the Korean War, attaining the rank of lieutenant. Upon his discharge in 1957, Coover devoted himself to fiction. During the summer of that year, he spent a month sequestered in a cabin near the Canadian border, where he studied the work of Samuel Beckett and committed himself to writing serious avant-garde fiction. In 1958, he travelled to Spain, where he reunited with Maria del Pilar Sans-Mallafré, whom he had earlier met while serving a military tour in Europe. The couple married in 1959 and spent the summer touring southern Europe by motorcycle, an experience he described in “One Summer in Spain: Five Poems,” his first published work. Between 1958 and 1961, Coover studied at the University of Chicago, eventually receiving his master's degree in 1965. The Coovers lived in Spain for most of the early 1960s, a time during which Coover began regularly publishing stories in literary magazines, including the Evergreen Review. In 1966, after the couple returned to the United States, Coover took a teaching position at Bard College in New York. He also published his first novel, The Origin of the Brunists (1966), which won the William Faulkner Award for best first novel. In 1969, Coover won a Rockefeller Foundation grant and published Pricksongs and Descants, his first collection of short fiction. That year, he also wrote, produced, and directed a movie, On a Confrontation in Iowa City (1969). Coover has maintained an interest in film throughout his career. During the early 1970s, Coover published only short stories and drama, including A Theological Position (1972), a collection of one-act plays, all of which were eventually produced for the stage. He also won Guggenheim fellowships in 1971 and 1974, and served as fiction editor for the Iowa Review from 1974 to 1977. By the mid-1970s, Coover had finished his next novel, The Public Burning; it took him more than two years to find a publisher for the work, which was ultimately cited as a National Book Award nominee. Coover received a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1985 and a Rea Award for A Night at the Movies (1987), a collection of short stories. While Coover concentrated primarily on short fiction—with the exception of Gerald's Party—during the 1980s, he produced a series of new novels during the 1990s. Coover has taught at a number of universities, including the University of Iowa, Columbia University, Princeton University, and Brandeis University, throughout his career. Since 1981 he has been a writer-in-residence and faculty member of the creative writing program at Brown University.

Major Works

The overarching theme of Coover's work is that narrative structures themselves—whether myth, superstition, or cultural tropes—influence the way people think about themselves and the world around them. Furthermore, Coover feels that by shattering conventional narrative structures one can acquire a clearer view of reality. Though he has attracted considerable praise for his short stories and dramas, most critical analysis of Coover's work is devoted to his novels. The Origin of the Brunists traces the rise of an apocalyptic religious cult centered around the sole survivor of a Midwest mining disaster. This novel is the most conventionally structured of Coover's works. However, by concentrating on the way the novel's events are interpreted by the characters instead of on the events themselves, Coover manages to devote a large part of the novel to exploring the nature of narrative structures. The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. (1968), in which Coover extends this exploration, revolves around protagonist J. Henry Waugh, a middle-aged accountant who becomes obsessed with the progress of a solitary table-top baseball game of his own invention. The game—driven purely by chance—goes awry and Waugh's drive to impose his will upon the game's events wreaks havoc with his life. Coover uses Waugh's plight to demonstrate that fiction, and the narratives that societies use to interpret events, are as important as the events themselves. In The Public Burning, Coover's examination of narrative takes the form of a fictional reworking of the espionage trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a seminal event in postwar American history. Coover takes great liberties with the real-life event; rather than have the Rosenbergs executed in federal prison, for instance, he stages the execution in Times Square, as part of a grand public sacrificial ritual. The overriding theme of this historical burlesque—half of which is narrated by former U.S. President Richard Nixon—is the way in which accepted modes of historical representation can actually influence the actions of the public. Coover's next major work, Spanking the Maid (1981), is an erotically charged series of thirty-nine stories, each featuring the same two characters: a maid and her employer. At once a parody of nineteenth-century pornographic fiction and Arabian Nights-style narrative cycles, the work is also a serious examination of the fundamental conflict between the concept of the self and the other. Coover again parodied a number of traditional narrative forms in Gerald's Party, most noticeably the detective story. Though the story does feature a murder investigation, all of the characters's attempts at logical detection are frustrated and subverted, and the story becomes a critique of the feasibility of ontological systems in general.

Coover returned to the subject of United States history and the character of Richard Nixon in Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears? (1987). An unconventional sports story, the novella follows Nixon through an alternate career as a professional football player during the 1930s. Coover applied his talent for bold parody and clever wordplay to a revision of a children's classic, Carlo Collodi's 1883 Pinocchio story, in his next full-length novel, Pinocchio in Venice. Coover recasts the familiar wooden puppet as an aging Nobel laureate who is frustrated in his attempt to finish his last and greatest work during a debauched tour of his homeland. On the surface, the carnivalesque tale is preoccupied with death and other finalities, but on a deeper level, it argues for the acceptance of impermanence and celebrates change for its own sake. In John's Wife (1996), Coover set parody aside, instead creating an ambitious narrative out of the fabric of small-town life. The plot involves a sprawling cast of more than fifty characters, each providing a unique perspective on the title character, the enigmatic wife of a prominent citizen. Two characters in particular—a novelist and a photographer—stand out, and through their musings on art, Coover gives focus to the townsfolk's opinions and anecdotes, ultimately weaving a text that is less about real life than about perception and consciousness. In his next two novels, Coover returned to reworking standard narrative forms. In Briar Rose (1996), he revisited the tale of Sleeping Beauty. As in the original, Coover's version features an evil crone, a bewitched maiden, and a valiant prince. Yet Coover, by placing most of the story inside the sleeping beauty's dreams, preempts any possibility of linear resolution. Each of the novel's sections—alternately narrated by the crone, the beauty, and the prince—start out promisingly enough for the characters, but they all end in disappointment and frustration. Ghost Town represents Coover's interpretation of a traditional Western novel. He utilizes a number of the typical characters of the Western genre—the outlaw, the sheriff, the cowboy, the dance-hall girl—but Coover shifts the characters' roles and attitudes unpredictably, ultimately rendering their stereotypes irrelevant. Coover has also been an early advocate for applying hypertext technology to literary endeavors, and has led experiments in computer-based hypermedia fiction at Brown University.

Critical Reception

Coover has been widely respected by literary scholars for the depth and originality of his explorations into the nature of fiction and textual representation. In addition to his serious philosophical and aesthetic concerns, critics have admired the innovative narrative techniques that Coover has developed and honed over more than thirty years. His use of multiple narrative perspectives, nonlinear story progressions, enigmatic characterizations, and intertextual allusions has earned him a place beside Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, and Donald Barthelme in the rank of postmodern writers. However, Coover has not achieved the wide popular audience that other postmodern authors have, and even among critics, his work is viewed as somewhat underappreciated. Many of his novels, including The Public Burning, had received decidedly mixed reviews upon their original publication. A number of critics have also expressed reservations at what they consider to be Coover's stylistic excesses. Coover's penchant for ribald humor and depravity, which is often quite graphic and scatological, has also given some critics pause. Additionally, Coover has drawn criticism for his pronouncements concerning the “death” of the novel and the rise of hyperfiction, as presented in his 1992 New York Times Book Review essay, “The End of Books.” As with other apocalyptic prognosticators, Coover's literary predictions have been met with both interest and disdain. While Coover's recognition in the greater world of literature has been less conspicuous, he has continued to attract serious critical attention for his challenging oeuvre and prolific imagination. His later novels, such as Pinocchio in Venice, John's Wife, and Briar Rose, have been hailed by many as among Coover's best.

Principal Works

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Origin of the Brunists (novel) 1966

The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. (novel) 1968

On a Confrontation in Iowa City (film) 1969

Pricksongs and Descants (short stories) 1969

The Kid (play) 1972

*A Theological Position (plays) 1972

The Water Pourer (short story) 1972

Love Scene [originally produced in France as Scene d'amour] (play) 1973

The Stone Wall Book of Short Fictions [editor; with Kent Dixon] (short stories) 1973

Rip Awake (play) 1975


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Roy C. Caldwell, Jr. (essay date spring 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Caldwell, Roy C., Jr. “Of Hobby-Horses, Baseball, and Narrative: Robert Coover's Universal Baseball Association.Modern Fiction Studies 33, no. 1 (spring 1987): 161–71.

[In the following essay, Caldwell discusses the intersection of sport and literature in The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., drawing attention to parallels between the formal game structure of baseball and Coover's authorial game-playing in the novel.]

The play-world is not a real situation involving real men; it has an odd character of appearance—it is not real, and yet not nothing.


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George Kearns (review date autumn 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kearns, George. “Fiction: In History and Out.” Hudson Review 44, no. 3 (autumn 1991): 495–96.

[In the following excerpt, Kearns offers a negative assessment of Pinocchio in Venice.]

Would there were some text-specific Lethe-water one could swallow after reading Robert Coover's Pinocchio in Venice, which leaves me feeling soiled, defiled, gross. I knew I should have stopped, but, authentic sinner, I went on of my own free will. That Coover is supremely clever has long been established; he has gathered more prizes, grants and fellowships than a fetish has nails and feathers. The whole dictionary and a set of reference books are right there in...

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Pierre Joris (essay date summer 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Joris, Pierre. “Coover's Apoplectic Apocalypse or ‘Purviews of Cunning Abstractions.’” Critique 34, no. 4 (summer 1993): 220–31.

[In the following essay, Joris examines Coover's metafictional approach to literature and his affinity for cinematic technique, as demonstrated by the title story of A Night at the Movies.]

I tend to think of tragedy as a kind of adolescent response to the universe—the higher truth is a comic response.

—Robert Coover in an interview with Leo J. Hertzel cited in Critique II, 3 (1969)

I work with language because paper is...

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Richard Walsh (essay date fall 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Walsh, Richard. “Narrative Inscription, History, and the Reader in Robert Coover's The Public Burning.Studies in the Novel 25, no. 3 (fall 1993): 332–46.

[In the following essay, Walsh examines Coover's reinterpretation of the Rosenberg trial and McCarthy-era hysteria in The Public Burning, arguing that the novel's carnivalesque satire—particularly as embodied in the Nixon and Uncle Sam characters—dramatizes the collective psychology of Cold War American society.]

Robert Coover, one of the most impressive of the postmodern American novelists, established in his early fiction a preoccupation with the ways our various explanatory...

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Daniel E. Frick (essay date spring 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Frick, Daniel E. “The Prison House of Art: Aesthetics vs. Politics in Robert Coover's Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears?Studies in Short Fiction 31, no. 2 (spring 1994): 217–23.

[In the following essay, Frick offers a critical reevaluation of Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears?, which he considers an underappreciated achievement that offers important insight into the depressing reality faced by contemporary American writers who seek to imbue works of aesthetic excellence with political relevance.]

Robert Coover's Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears? does not appear on most short...

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Tom Petitjean (essay date fall 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Petitjean, Tom. “Coover's ‘The Babysitter.’” Explicator 54, no. 1 (fall 1995): 49–51.

[In the following essay, Petitjean argues that the narrative design of Coover's short story “The Babysitter” is intended to elicit multiple readings and interpretations.]

Robert Coover's short story “The Babysitter” is not fiction, but fiction(s). Coover presents to the reader all the expository information required of fiction: characters and action. However, it is an impossibility for the reader to organize the action(s) into a cohesive, linear plot; it is also undesirable. “The Babysitter” exploits the art of fiction, the notion of a story, to its full...

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Daniel E. Frick (essay date winter 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Frick, Daniel E. “Coover's Secret Sharer? Richard Nixon in The Public Burning.Critique 37, no. 2 (winter 1996): 82–91.

[In the following essay, Frick explores Coover's preoccupation with Richard Nixon, as evidenced in The Public Burning. Frick contends that Nixon represents an authorial alter-ego through whom Coover examines his own artistic self-doubt and depravity and the perils of attempting to debunk a tyrannical national mythology through the force of one's literary imagination.]

What lies behind Robert Coover's fascination with Richard Nixon? The novelist himself gave this explanation to Larry McCaffery in a 1979 interview: “[A]ny...

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Ricardo Miguel-Alfonso (essay date winter 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Miguel-Alfonso, Ricardo. “Mimesis and Self-Consciousness in Robert Coover's The Universal Baseball Association.Critique 37, no. 2 (winter 1996): 92–107.

[In the following essay, Miguel-Alfonso examines Coover's movement from mimetic representation toward self-conscious awareness in The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., drawing attention to the transformation of meaning and reality in the novel.]

After The Origin of the Brunists, Coover's interest in the examination of cultural paradigms became “limited” to the categories of fiction-making. In many of the short stories collected in Pricksongs and...

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Penelope Mesic (review date 30 June 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mesic, Penelope. “An American Nightmare: It's Not Pretty in Robert Coover's Anywhere, USA.” Chicago Tribune Books (30 June 1996): 3.

[In the following review of John's Wife, Mesic praises Coover's prose style, but finds shortcomings in the novel's exaggerated depravity and sprawling cast of characters.]

John's Wife, the latest novel by Robert Coover, may appear to be set in a nameless, contemporary small town—Anywhere, USA, with its summer barbecues and high school football, its car dealership and photo shop, and its air of bustling boosterism—but be warned. A closer look at the townspeople—sheriff, golf pro, whore, preacher, scheming...

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Steve Brzezinski (review date summer 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Brzezinski, Steve. Review of John's Wife, by Robert Coover. Antioch Review 54, no. 3 (summer 1996): 364–65.

[In the following review, Brzezinski offers a positive assessment of John's Wife.]

Coover, one of America's most celebrated novelists and the leading practitioner of postmodernist fiction, weighs in with a dense, hallucinatory meditation on collective yearnings and the intrusion of the fantastic into everyday life. The novel is a darkly comic dissection of the interior life of a “quiet prairie town.” Boasting a cast of some 50 major characters, with dizzying shifts of perspective and narration, the book circles endlessly around common events...

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Robert L. McLaughlin (review date fall 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McLaughlin, Robert L. Review of John's Wife, by Robert Coover. Review of Contemporary Fiction 16, no. 3 (fall 1996): 183–84.

[In the following review, McLaughlin praises John's Wife, calling the novel “funny, moving, shocking, revealing, thought-provoking.”]

Over a thirty-year career, Robert Coover has given us ground-breaking fiction that, while making us laugh, cuts to the heart of the stories that define our world and to the terrible truths about storytelling itself. John's Wife, his brilliant new novel, is his thirtieth anniversary present to his readers. In it, Coover weaves his various characters' voices and stories into complex...

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Michael Wood (review date 17 October 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wood, Michael. “Other People's Wives.” New York Review of Books 43, no. 16 (17 October 1996): 48–50.

[In the following excerpt, Wood offers a positive assessment of John's Wife.]

What's a tour de force? A show of strength, with an emphasis on the show, the performance, the bedazzlement. The strength is artistic, but there is still perhaps an element of arm-twisting. Does the phrase necessarily imply that we like the show less than we admire it? Or only that there are shows we like more than this one, scenes where dazzled admiration is not the main feeling we have?

The tour de force in both of these new novels involves a certain kind of...

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Michael Upchurch (review date 9 February 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Upchurch, Michael. “Dreams and Nightmares: Robert Coover Probes the Disparities between Reality and Might-Have-Been.” Chicago Tribune Books (9 February 1997): 5.

[In the following review of Briar Rose, Upchurch praises the novel, though notes that Coover's “manneristic flourishes and acrobatic syntax” will make the work inaccessible to some readers.]

It's a truism that certain authors write their books with future film options in mind. With this sly new retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story, however, Robert Coover opens up another, quintessentially 1990s possibility for media rights. His Briar Rose seems custom-designed to make a nifty...

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Daniel R. Bronson (review date spring 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bronson, Daniel R. Review of John's Wife, by Robert Coover. World Literature Today 71, no. 2 (spring 1997): 385.

[In the following review, Bronson criticizes Coover's weak characterization and loose plotting in John's Wife.]

With the opening line of Robert Coover's latest novel, “Once, there was a man named John,” the reader enters a prairie town wherein resides John, a native son “whose considerable resources matched his considerable desires.” A successful builder/developer, John has looks, luck, the cocky assurance and total self-absorption of a former high-school football star, and the town's most beautiful woman as his wife. His is a...

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Robert L. McLaughlin (review date summer 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McLaughlin, Robert L. Review of Briar Rose, by Robert Coover. Review of Contemporary Fiction 17, no. 2 (summer 1997): 272.

[In the following positive review, McLaughlin compliments Briar Rose, calling it a “classic by a contemporary master.”]

Last year, Robert Coover marked the thirtieth anniversary of his first novel with John's Wife, a huge, sprawling narrative tracing dozens of characters over thirty years or so of their town's and our country's history. Now, less than a year later, Coover has given us another novel, Briar Rose, but this one is a compact, focused story with only three characters, but nevertheless a story as...

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Millicent Bell (review date fall 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bell, Millicent. “Fiction Chronicle.” Partisan Review 64, no. 4 (fall 1997): 609–19.

[In the following excerpt, Bell offers a generally positive assessment of Briar Rose.]

“What's the story, Wishbone?” the song asks the fox terrier as though even a dog in a PBS children's program would know that stories are the secret of meaning, our way of making sense of our lives. Beginnings, middles and ends. Cause and effect. Character and plot. This happened because this other thing had happened before. Or because someone of a certain kind was the doer of the deed. Ever so often we think that the non-story-ness of our experience is the truth about it—and...

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Paul Quinn (review date 12 February 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Quinn, Paul. “The Lone Cowboy.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5002 (12 February 1999): 21.

[In the following review, Quinn praises the reissued edition of The Public Burning and offers a positive assessment of Ghost Town.]

Imagine a re-worked Mount Rushmore, sculpted in dynamite. Looming large in the Dakota sunlight are the conjoined forms of monumentalized media-age presidents: JFK, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton flank a frowning Richard Nixon, the shadow at five o'clock spilling off his granite chin into the valley below through which a lone cowboy rides. Such a landscape, of history and mediated myth—and the increasingly uncertain territory...

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Robert Murray Davis (review date spring 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Davis, Robert Murray. Review of Ghost Town, by Robert Coover. World Literature Today 73, no. 2 (spring 1999): 344.

[In the following negative review, Davis criticizes Coover's prose in Ghost Town.]

Like Mel Brooks, Robert Coover relies heavily upon pastiche and parody, but his attempt at a western is in quality more like Robin Hood: Men in Tights than Blazing Saddles. Coover's central character in Ghost Town is a man with no name; in fact, none of the characters or settings has a name. The anonymity probably results in part from Coover's desire to write as generically as possible—this is observable in the language, which is part...

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Robert L. McLaughlin (review date spring 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McLaughlin, Robert L. Review of Ghost Town, by Robert Coover. Review of Contemporary Fiction 19, no. 1 (spring 1999): 174.

[In the following review, McLaughlin provides a positive assessment of Ghost Town, commenting that Coover “has hit his target with brilliant force.”]

Throughout his career, Robert Coover has examined, parodied, and deconstructed the conventions and discourses of a plethora of literary genres. In Ghost Town he turns his attention to that most American of genres, the Western.

The novel follows a nameless drifter, familiar from any number of stories and movies, yet also vague, more a type than a...

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Judith Seaboyer (essay date 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Seaboyer, Judith. “Robert Coover's Pinocchio in Venice: An Anatomy of a Talking Book.” In Venetian Views, Venetian Blinds: English Fantasies of Venice, edited by Manfred Pfister and Barbara Schaff, pp. 237–55. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999.

[In the following essay, Seaboyer locates Pinocchio in Venice within a tradition of literary works about Venice and examines the novel's intertextual references and philosophical discourse, including allusions to Dante Alighieri, James Joyce, and Carlo Collodi, as they relate to the theme of metamorphosis, Menippean satire, and the Bakhtinian concept of carnival.]

Given the evidence in this volume for the...

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Frank L. Cioffi (essay date fall 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cioffi, Frank L. “Coover's (Im)Possible Worlds in The Public Burning.Critique 42, no. 1 (fall 2000): 26–37.

[In the following essay, Cioffi explores the problematic representation of real and fictive worlds in The Public Burning, particularly as evident in the character of Richard Nixon, whose fictional persona in the novel subverts his actual historical identity, thus unsettling the reader's assumptions about American history and fiction itself.]

Even without the reminding analog of the recent, ritualized executive pillorying, Robert Coover's The Public Burning still resonates like a venerable B-52 pressed into service. It still...

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Marcel Cornis-Pope (essay date fall 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cornis-Pope, Marcel. “Rewriting the Encounter with the Other: Narrative and Cultural Transgression in The Public Burning.Critique 42, no. 1 (fall 2000): 40–50.

[In the following essay, Cornis-Pope discusses Coover's evocation of “otherness” and marginality in The Public Burning, especially as portrayed through the novel's composite voices and Nixon's interactions with the tyrannical Uncle Sam character and the scapegoated Ethel Rosenberg.]

Though his eyes are closed, his senses withdrawn, for one vivid moment he sees himself at a distance in the Fairy's arms. […] What he sees up there is a decrepit misshapen...

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Robert Coover and Larry McCaffery (interview date fall 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Coover, Robert, and Larry McCaffery. “As Guilty as the Rest of Them: An Interview with Robert Coover.” Critique 42, no. 1 (fall 2000): 115–25.

[In the following interview, Coover discusses the cultural impact of the Rosenberg trial and the creative process behind his writing of The Public Burning, as well as the potential of hypertext literature and the significance of film, dreams, and literary theory in his work.]

[McCaffery]: Do you recall where you were on the night of June 19th, 1953—which is to say, the night the Rosenbergs were executed? What sort of an impact had the trial had on you at that point?


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Further Reading

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)


Balitas, Vince. Review of John's Wife, by Robert Coover. Insight on the News (1 July 1996): 33–34.

Balitas commends Coover's literary experimentation in John's Wife, but notes that the work reflects the author's characteristic strengths and weaknesses.

Bernstein, Richard. “Tall (and Existential) in the Saddle.” New York Times (21 October 1998): E9.

Bernstein offers a positive assessment of Ghost Town.

Birkerts, Sven. “Horseman, Pass By!” New York Times Book Review (27 September 1998): 11.

Birkerts praises Ghost Town, but...

(The entire section is 301 words.)