View Full Version : Robert Coover: Gerald's Party
The novel wears its theoretical commitments on its sleeve. The narrator and various characters frequently give voice to various theoretical concerns that shape and inform this novel. And, in contrast to novels like Ana Historic (http://shigekuni.blogspot.com/2009/01/intentionally-dull-daphne-marlatts-ana.html), it is a resounding success. The novel dissects theatricality, performativity, sexuality, fairy tales, gender roles, genres and other things, and by making its points in a very obvious manner, it dissects the very act of dissection as well. A cerebral novel like this can be a rather joyless affair, a trudge, a mind-numbing effort. Gerald?s Party isn?t. The reason for this is the writing. There are few writers like Coover: every word in Gerald?s Party feels necessary, no word appears to be substitutable with another. (...) If it does not fit your sensibility, you will not like it. The prose is great, no matter what your aesthetic allegiance, but this is a novel of ideas and they need to work for you. This is a warning: this novel is not for everybody. That said: I think this book is stunning, a full success, and the writer clearly among the best writers currently at work. The way he controls tiny nuances and wields the heavy hammer of theory at the same time is inimitable. Books like Marlatt?s disaster of a novel (http://shigekuni.blogspot.com/2009/01/intentionally-dull-daphne-marlatts-ana.html) show how hard it is to make an endeavor like this work.
full review here And then there were none: Robert Coover?s ?Gerald?s Party? shigekuni. (http://shigekuni.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/and-then-there-were-none-robert-coover%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cgerald%E2%80%99s-party%E2%80%9D/)
a great, great writer, if this book is any indication.
A fabulous and infinitely complex review. The amount of time that went into this shows. Brilliant.
A few remarks, as always:
The dual layers of the book make it sound fascinating. Coover must be adept at the art of intricacy to pull this off without it seeming contrived.
I appreciated the comparison between the inspector and Hercule Poirot, by the way. Very nice. I think that offering us this stong visual image gives us something tangible to relate to.
The book does sound "multi-faceted." And the theme that runs throughout the book--that is, the implausibility of being able to view the world objectively through one vantage point--is surely something that anyone would find pertinent.
Coover using the trope of the camera to illustrate the reader's ignorance is ingenious.
A point could be made here...though I'm not sure it isn't a digressive point...but, anyway, it does come to mind that the exact form of anything is not something that can be ascertained by mere sight. We all rely too much on appearance, and that which appears to be a certain way is sometimes the exact opposite.
Hey, I just said something important about life. Your reviews are helping me tremendously. Are you aware of this, M.? All I need to do now is apply insights like this to my own life.
I don't even need to read this book now. That's how thorough your review was. However, rest assured I will keep it in mind for a rainy day when I cannot think of what I should order next from the library. When you call it a "novel of ideas," I am somewhat captivated (and you know, dear, I'm not captivated easily).
It seems to me that Coover plays with his readers, which brings me to my next point. The place for mind games to be played is in books. Leave it up to authors, I say. In the real world, stuff like this just doesn't work. But it's fun to read about. And I love fairy tales. I like to be drawn deeply into a novel; so, that's another thing that's appealing about Gerald's Party.
Ok. OK. Maybe I'll write it down on my ever-growing list of to-be-reads.
I hope you realize your review was really too good, dear. You must somehow curb your brilliance. And I mean it!
Almost forgot: Love the phrase about Coover's control over "tiny nuances."
You're just too darn clever.
Its ironic as I just saw this book in my old book boxes. I almost dug it out...
I read it back in the day...It was one of the first novels I think that I read where the actual reading time spent was greater than the fictive, narrative time...
I remember it as a phrenetic read. Reading your excellent review I may have to let Coover back into the light.
I also had his Spanking the Maid...and still have Pinochio in Venice in the boxes. Never read either.
Seems as if he and Hawkes and Elkin (who were the College prof new darlings back then) have sorta fallen through the literary cracks...
It's like an ascending order. Elkin least known, Hawkes at least has his "Blood Oranges" constantly known and recommended. And Coover, well, his new publications do draw some attention each time, no? Another one of those famous at the time but somewhat little know today is JOhn Gardener, no? Or am I just going by my own experience?
Damn. I forgot I wanted to read The PUblic Burning. Must put it on my tbr stack again.
Just decided to dig out Hawkes' Lime Twig and Blood Oranges from the old basement boxes...tho I am still way too emersed in pre 20th century lit so it will be a long while before they get my attention.
By the late 70's early 80's John Gardner's rep was already in sharp decline and he was getting castigated by academia over here. I may have to re-purchase an Elkin or two (very unique narrative voice). I also can recommend EARLY W.H. Gass, (In The Heart of the Heart of the County and Omensetters Luck). The Pederson Kid is one of the top 5 long short stories/novellas I have ever read. I might have to get Coover's first novel, Origin of the Brunists
yep, Omensetter's Luck is amazing, amazing, amazing.
I am currently reading "THe Tunnel", among other books (Origin of the BRunists, too. ;))
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