Robert Coover and the Generosity of the Page
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Robert Coover and the Generosity of the Page is an unconventional study of Robert Coover's work from his early masterpiece The Origin of the Brunists (1966) to the recent Noir (2010). Written in the second person, it offers a self-reflexive investigation into the ways in which Coover's stories often challenge the reader to resist the conventions of sense-making and even literary criticism. By portraying characters lost in surroundings they often fail to grasp, Coover's work playfully enacts a "(melo)drama of cognition" that mirrors the reader's own desire to interpret and make sense of texts in unequivocal ways. This tendency in Coover's writing is indicative of a larger refusal of the ready-made, of the once-and-for-all or the authoritative, celebrating instead, in its generosity, the widening of possibilities—thus inevitably forcing the reader-critic to acknowledge the arbitrariness and artificiality of her responses.
category on which Martin ponders (129) only reinforces the fact that boundaries are arbitrary and that the partition of reality into isolated, particularized elements, a view inherited from Aristotelianism, is partial and reductive. Yet the opposite Platonic view it historically superseded, the grand comprehensive view of the whole, is not itself anything more than a fabrication, also potentially reductive in its comprehensive approach to what, almost by definition, remains in excess; Martin will
hyperfiction. Like other fictions from Pricksongs & Descants (“The Magic Poker,” “The Gingerbread House,” “The Elevator,” or “Quenby and Ola, Swede and Carl”), “The Babysitter” is nothing if not non-sequential writing, a series of text chunks, or lexias, connected by links which offer the reader different pathways through it, chronology, as in The Adventures of Lucky Pierre, though implemented in the story through the regular mention of time, merely one path among many. The linear, causal
glance, yet somehow illegible, and it recalled to him his first terrifying encounter, when still a puppet, with his abbiccì, which (the Fairy said) promised him the world and more but gave him (under “N” of course, and this was the page he’d come to once again) niente. Nothing. (195-6) A puppet’s memory; the letters of the alphabet, and consequently the words they incessantly (re- / de-) compose, are unstably labile— “Too many words in the world already. Like taking water to the sea.” “Enough
submitted as he becomes to the “mindless, unpredictable, and irresponsible” rules that the dice, throw after throw, permanently reinstate, thus expending the game’s possibilities while simultaneously expanding it: Odd thing about an operation like this league: once you set it in motion, you were yourself somehow launched into the same orbit; there was growth in the making of it, development, but there was also a defining of the outer edges. (142) As its edges get redefined, the game (and the
Voice of a text like Hair O’ the Chine sounds eerily like yours, that the meaning you are after slips from your grasp all too easily, that no matter how sophisticated your analysis may appear at first, how tight-or large-focused your interpretive lens might be, what patience you might elicit when trying to immobilize the tableau offering itself to your understanding, no matter all that, you can in the end never claim discursive closure of any sort. Everywhere in the texts those elusive characters