September 7, 2009 § Leave a comment
Just finished: A Child Again.
Well, I had grand plans to do a whole comparison of Coover’s Bluebeard retelling, “The Last One,” with Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber.” It’s interesting how Coover chose to use the first-person perspective of Bluebeard himself, while the child bride narrates Carter’s early-twentieth-century update; and the treatment of Bluebeard’s twisted psychology in each is worth considering, and their varying depictions of sex and sexuality; and their endings differ in useful ways, pedagogically speaking; but I find it hard to compare anything to Angela Carter. It’s not really Coover’s fault — just about any other retelling would seem facile by comparison.
So I’ll just say: read “The Bloody Chamber.” And if you’re going to pick up A Child Again, here were my four favorite stories (besides “McDuff on the Mound,” discussed previously), with favorite passages from each:
-“Punch.” Yes, narrated by Punch the puppet, going through his show.
It’s not that easy, you villain, says the hangman with a cruel laugh. Prepare to meet your Maker. I already know him, says I. He’s a drunken wanker. That’s enough now, Mister Punch, just put your head in here. I’ve never done this before, says I. I don’t know how. Show me. He does and I jerk the rope and hang him. There’s nothing to it. He’s dancing on air. I whistle a little tune. The mob loves me for it. I’m a fucking hero.
-“Playing House.” Which is creepily reminiscent of House of Leaves, and also its own very strange thing, about dark and light, story and reality.
Once there was a house, goes another story we have heard, called the House of Anxiety, in which the corridors all led onto other corridors, provoking ceaseless motion without respite, the rooms all trapped somehow between, if in fact there were any. The story says there were, but how can a story know? We suppose these rooms exist in a story where they do not exist simply because a house qua house is unimaginable without them. We call it the Fallacy of A Priori Judgment. Still naming things.
-“The Return of the Dark Children,” which I’ve mentioned before: a great story, a perfectly timely sequel to the Pied Piper tale.
And at home, in their rooms, when the children played with their dolls and soldiers and toy castles, the dark children with their mysterious ways now always played a part in their little dramas. One could hear them talking to the dark children, the dark children speaking back in funny squeaky voices that quavered like a ghost’s. Even if it was entirely invented, an imaginary world made out of scraps overheard from parents and teachers, it was the world they chose to live in now, rather than the one provided by their loving families, which was, their parents often felt, a kind of betrayal, lack of gratitude, lost trust.
-“Suburban Jigsaw,” a puzzle-story about serial fornication in the suburbs (if you’re going to write about this, might as well make a game of it).
Capricious. Malicious. Vicious. Delicious. Perverse. Curse. Verse. Or worse. Gross. Eros. Is that a rhyme? Hmm. A dose is. Verbose. No, she is not verbose. She’s ribald. He scribbled. Improper. A showstopper. A whirly girly. Illicit. So, kiss it. Don’t miss it. Obscene Irene. Lean and mean. She’s offbeat. Indiscreet. Street meat in heat. Rick is sitting all alone beside Lily’s pool like the period at the end of a sentence, tripping (ripping? flipping?) on her little pills and searching for the right words (it’s easy, they’re flying all about him) to describe the crazy creature from the corner bar for a lyric he is writing, probably not for the Sunday supplement.
August 27, 2009 § Leave a comment
Now reading: A Child Again, by Robert Coover.
I’m going to pick a nit today, because what good is having a blog if you can’t pick a nit now and then?
This is a McSweeney’s book, and as such a good deal of thought has been given to the book’s design: it’s a nice size, with cover art (no jacket, so hot right now, a trend started by McSweeney’s) that hearkens back to mid-century children’s literature. There’s also a pocket on the back cover for a hypertext-y story on oversized playing cards.
So all I’m saying is, they put a lot of thought and effort into this book, as the folks there seem to do with most all of their productions. As a matter of fact, I heard Eli Horowitz, publisher and managing editor for McSweeney’s, speak at a conference this summer, where he said in no uncertain terms that he feels that there has to be a reason to publish something in paper rather than online; that there has to be a reason to make a book of it. The onus is now on the printed book, in other words, to justify its existence: by being beautiful, being cool, being interesting to look at and hold and read.
So what the hell’s up with the paper, here? I am not a bibliographer; I am not a bibliophile of the kind that obsesses over the details of bookmaking materials (and yes, they are out there); I am not even all that picky, really, most of the time, when it comes to this sort of thing. I read crappy paperbacks and books bound in library buckram all the time. But the paper on which this book is printed is way too white. Blindingly bright. And there’s something about the feel of it, combined with the font (which seems to be the standard McS font, which I should know but do not — someone help me out here), which makes reading this book feel like reading a very nicely bound bundle of computer printouts.
Maybe it was just a mistake. I don’t know. Or maybe costs have to be cut somewhere when you’re paying for nice cover design and a pocket so Coover can have his crazy card-story. Or — I wouldn’t put it by them — maybe McSweeney’s decided to include a wider variety of paper brightnesses and colors in their never-ending quest to invigorate American letters. Whatever the case, it’s amazing how glaringly obvious an inappropriate book paper is. A good paper, easy on the eyes, is one of those things you take for granted until it’s not there anymore.