Wild Parlor Games

"There are bad people who would be less dangerous
if they had no good in them."

—La Rochefoucauld

From the beginning of his literary career, Robert Coover has been driven by the quite commendable ambition to make radical innovations in the forms and styles of contemporary fiction. Like John Barth, who once famously proclaimed the conventional novel obsolete, Coover has for years been burdened by a weary sense that the traditional narrative possibilities for fiction—in particular, the possibilities of classic realism—have passed into exhaustion, not only because they have grown overly familiar but be cause, since they are so familiar, the response of the reader to them has become habitual and imaginatively unproductive.

Coover is convinced that the first responsibility of the truly original writer is to discover new narrative arrangements that will have the effect of shocking the reader out of his habitual responses and forcing him to confront, however painfully, fresh and unorthodox ways of envisioning human experience. In his 20-year effort to fulfill this responsibility, Coover has produced eight works of fiction, comprising novels, plays, and collections of short stories, all of which are eccentric in form, often brutally unpleasant in content, and fueled by a savage determination to subvert the conventions of plausibility, not to say sanity,...

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