A gathering of short stories by Coover (Huck out West, 2017, etc.), the pioneering maven of postmodern experimentalism.
Over seven decades, Coover, who now teaches “electronic writing” at Brown University, has explored many modes of short fiction, from the near-expressionistic to the most disjointed stream-of-consciousness. Indeed, it is with the latter strategy that this gathering opens, with an onrushing story that suggests both madness (“I shout for his boys and for his wife and for anybody inside and nobody comes out ‘Goddamn you’ I cry out at the top of my lungs and half sobbin and sick and then feelin too beat out to do anythin more I turn around and head back for home”) and the biblical tale of Noah and all its divine oddity. The story following it, also from the 1960s, has a comparatively placid tone, even if it turns on horrific flatulence inside an office-building elevator. At the heart of many of the 30 stories collected here are what might be thought of as fractured fairy tales: the gingerbread house that lends its name to one story “is approached by flagstones of variegated wafers,” Coover writes, “through a garden of candied fruits and all-day suckers in neat little rows”; the antinomian sisters who, like bears, once visited a deserted island manor and “shat in the soundbox of an old green piano”; the lion who converses with the fox inside Aesop’s forest and says that it’s “a wise policy…to keep potential enemies where you can either watch or eat them.” There’s even an odd take on the old "Pied Piper of Hamelin" yarn, complete with nibbling on rats before they can nibble on you. Some of the stories are little-known; some, such as “The Babysitter,” much studied, anthologized, and imitated.
What was once daring may now seem a little tame, but Coover’s influence endures, and this collection provides good evidence for why that should be so.