by Robert Coover ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1998
Hyper-parodist and gifted wordsmith Coover (Gerald's Party, 1986; A Night at the Movies, 1987; etc., etc.) strikes again, taking on the chaps, six-guns, and saloons of a mythic Wild West with an intensity sometimes tedious but brilliant on the whole. Open with a ""forlorn horseman on the desert plain"" approaching a town that continually recedes as he draws toward it-until it comes up from behind and rolls in under his horse's feet. This is a town that never does quite behave itself, its buildings shifting around and rearranging themselves after each shoot-out, robbery, or fight, of which there are plenty indeed (""The one-eared man's head splits with a pop as a clay bowl might and his brains ooze out like spilled oatmeal. . . ""), although-just like in the movies, the source of Coover's greatest energies here-these grievously crushed, pierced, shot, and tortured bums, cowpokes, and swindlers never quite seem to die. Our wandering horseman becomes the town's sheriff, somehow promises to marry (sure not wanting to) Belle, the barroom floozy and chanteuse, while all along falling in love with the local schoolmarm, a willowy and grammar-correcting lady glimpsed most often through a white-curtained window. Even though all is dreamlike and surreal (that's ""How it is out here on the edge of things""), the story's episodes, people, and even animals managing to blend one into another, there's still a more or less classic showdown. Coover's real interest, though, seems to tie in the aesthetic mythos behind the fiction, in the West as a never-ending movie (the sheriff is ""a drifter. . . whose history escapes him even as he experiences it, and yet to drift is to adventure. . . ""), something, like any myth, that's dead and alive at the same time (""Yu couldnt hardly git away from it. I wuz afeerd I'd hafta spend my whole goddam life insida cock'n bull made up by other people. Mostly dead people""). An adult western, in all, from a grand master of the hyperbolic surreal.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998
Page Count: 160
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998
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