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Robert Coover (1932 - )

Related: postmodern novel - American literature

Much of the novel's alleged power is embedded in the line, that compulsory author-directed movement from the beginning of a sentence to its period, from the top of the page to the bottom, from the first page to the last. Of course, through print's long history, there have been countless strategies to counter the line's power, from marginalia and footnotes to the creative innovations of novelists like Laurence Sterne, James Joyce, Raymond Queneau, Julio Cortazar, Italo Calvino and Milorad Pavic, not to exclude the form's father, Cervantes himself. But true freedom from the tyranny of the line is perceived as only really possible now at last with the advent of hypertext, written and read on the computer, where the line in fact does not exist unless one invents and implants it in the text. --(Robert Coover, 1992) via New York Times [Sept 2005]

Spanking the Maid (1998) - Robert Coover [Amazon.com]


Robert Coover was born in Charles City, Iowa on February 4, 1932. He graduated from Indiana University in 1955, then served in the United States Navy. He received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago in 1965 and has served as a teacher or writer in residence at many universities. He is generally considered a writer of fabulation and metafiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Coover [Jul 2004]

The End of Books (1992) - Robert Coover

In the real world nowadays, that is to say, in the world of video transmissions, cellular phones, fax machines, computer networks, and in particular out in the humming digitalized precincts of avant-garde computer hackers, cyberpunks and hyperspace freaks, you will often hear it said that the print medium is a doomed and outdated technology, a mere curiosity of bygone days destined soon to be consigned forever to those dusty unattended museums we now call libraries. Indeed, the very proliferation of books and other print-based media, so prevalent in this forest-harvesting, paper-wasting age, is held to be a sign of its feverish moribundity, the last futile gasp of a once vital form before it finally passes away forever, dead as God.

[W]hich would mean of course that the novel, too, as we know it, has come to its end. Not that those announcing its demise are grieving. For all its passing charm, the traditional novel, which took center stage at the same time that industrial mercantile democracies arose -- and which Hegel called "the epic of the middle-class world" -- is perceived by its would-be executioners as the virulent carrier of the patriarchal, colonial, canonical, proprietary, hierarchical and authoritarian values of a past that is no longer with us.

[D]awn it is, to be sure. The granddaddy of full-length hypertext fictions is Michael Joyce's landmark "Afternoon," first released on floppy disk in 1987 and moved into a new Storyspace "reader," partly developed by Mr. Joyce himself, in 1990.

Hypertext is truly a new and unique environment. Artists who work there must be read there. And they will probably be judged there as well: criticism, like fiction, is moving off the page and on line, and it is itself susceptible to continuous changes of mind and text. Fluidity, contingency, indeterminacy, plurality, discontinuity are the hypertext buzzwords of the day, and they seem to be fast becoming principles, in the same way that relativity not so long ago displaced the falling apple. --(Robert Coover, 1992) via http://www.tnellen.com/ted/endofbooks.html [Sept 2005]

Spanking the Maid (1998) - Robert Coover

The New York Times Book Review, Alan Friedman
Spanking the Maid is hard-core allegory.... a very funny book, a tragicomedy.

"Though Coover's message is bleak, his delivery is wonderfully comic" (Bharati Mukherjee, "The Globe & Mail" (Toronto)) in this spare, tantalizing, and perfect book, named by Daphne Merkin in "The New Yorker" as one of her "favorite" S/M books.

Taking a cue from Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, (1947) and his own short stories featured in Pricksongs and Descants, what would seem to be only an experiment develops into a real commentary on self-reference and post structuralism. Coover's treatment of the master-slave, dominant-submissive relationship serves to show the sado-masochistic exchange that exists in language when that language becomes "meta" language, or language about language. In this way all "criticism" is "criticized," begging the question: if meta language is sado-masochistic, what is meta-meta language?

The novel also works despite its subject matter-- if Coover had chosen some other setting, one could still delight in the way he weaves repitition into an ongoing cascade, each permutation the same and wholly different. Chaos theory as literary genre? Now who's being sado-masochistic? --Jason Edwards via amazon.com

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