Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Pulp Fictions and Hypertexts with Robert Coover" in L Magazine

Michael Rowin takes a look at Robert Coover's new novel Noir for L Magazine: "You are at the morgue. Where the light is weird. Shadowless, but like a negative, as though the light itself were shadow turned inside out." So opens Robert Coover's latest publication, Noir: A Novel, and appropriately so: for forty-five years Coover has been inverting literary convention in works as wide-ranging as seminal experimental short story collection Pricksongs & Descants (1969), controversial Nixon psychodrama The Public Burning (1977), cubistic S&M farce Spanking the Maid (1982), irreverent Pinocchio sequel Pinocchio in Venice (1991), and kaleidoscopic small-town epic John's Wife (1996). Originally labeled along with John Barth, William Gass and John Hawkes as a "metafictionist" for his tendency to take the very act of writing as a subject, Coover's imagination cannot be contained: not only does he continue to expand the boundaries of fiction within the covers of his published books, but as a professor at Brown University he has also become one of the strongest advocates and teachers of the next frontier of fiction, the alinear, interactive medium known as hypertext.

The recently published Noir: A Novel (Overlook Press) is Coover's first in eight years, but in its total cinematic immersion takes up right where Lucky Pierre left off. The protagonist is "you," Philip M. Noir, a clumsy, forgetful, and lecherous private investigator who inhabits a permanently nocturnal labyrinthine cityscape right out of a chiaroscuroed crime thriller. Initially hired by a mysterious and beautiful veiled widow to find her husband's killer, Noir must now find her own murderer in an underworld populated by cantankerous cops (Blue), sultry nightclub singers (Flame), and seedy criminal informants (Rats). The real investigation for Coover, however, is into his usual concerns—memory, consciousness, identity, sex, the constant flux of a deceivingly malleable "reality," the intertwining of cinema and literature—with the dark, bawdy humor (a moll's fading full-body tattoo, used to relay messages between rival yakuza, is described as "suffering the fate of all history, which is only corruptible memory") and impeccable stream of consciousness prose that are his trademarks."

Click here to read Michael Rowin's interview with Robert Coover.

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