robert coover

Stuck in the Middle: Second Person and You


Ask ten people what they think about second person, and a good seven or eight of them will say that McInerney did it once, sure, and did it well, but outside of Bright Lights, Big City, second-person’s just a gimmick, is best left trapped in all the choose-your-own-adventure series from the eighties.

I can kind of understand this, too.

With stories, we have default settings: first- and third-person, with third really being the deviance from the norm, the deviance from first-person. First-person is our natural delivery method, isn’t it? If you’re telling somebody about the amusement park last week, you do it like: I was standing in line for like ten hours, and then this clown laughed at me and it had to be eight thousand degrees and on and on, I’ing your way into some perfect punchline of a conclusion. But you, if your name’s Jimmy, say, never go Jimmy was standing in line for ten hours, and then this clown laughed at him and it had to be like eight thousand degrees.

Note too with those examples that part of our natural mode for fiction, it’s past tense. This is because fiction is narrative, and narrative is selection, and selection is from pre-existing events, and events only pre-exist if they, you know, happened before.

It’s complicated.


Craft Notes / 13 Comments
March 20th, 2014 / 12:31 pm

Watching The Twilight Zone

A few weeks ago, the lymph nodes along my neck suddenly swelled up.  I had a doctor check it out and he determined I had strep throat, and then a week later, added mononucleosis to the diagnosis.  Sort of a one-two punch of undergraduate illness.   I didn’t feel that sick, and suffered little symptoms other than the inflamed globules along my jugular, but it became clear to me, getting drunk off three beers and exhausted at 5pm, that I should probably take it easy.  My regular leisure, after school, work, and whatever other responsibilities I’ve lined up for myself on a given day, is to kick back with a few-to-several beers and do things on the internet.  The doctor recommended I avoid this, so there was only one viable solution to passing time at the same rate and pleasure level: watch TV.  I am one of those lucky enough to have acquired a password to my friend’s Netflix Instant Watch account, and, after watching The Larry Sanders Show, Archer, The Stand miniseries, My So-Called Life, and The League in their entireties, I noticed that The Twilight Zone original series had been recently added to the queue.  Though perhaps the most referenced and acclaimed cult series in history, I must admit, I’d never seen one episode.  I resolved, then, it would be my next big tackle in my imperial takeover of internet television.


Film & Random / 34 Comments
May 18th, 2011 / 10:12 am

Experimental Detective Fiction

One of my all time favorite writers, Robert Coover, has a new book coming out in about two weeks called Noir. It’s a detective novel written in the second person. Say what you will about writing in the second person, I’m super excited to see what Coover does with this puppy.

You can read an excerpt at Vice.

You can listen to Coover read from the book and answer some questions via Kelly Writers House.

Here’s a blurb from Ben Marcus:

“At age 75, Coover is still a brilliant mythmaker, a potty-mouthed Svengali, and an evil technician of metaphors. He is among our language’s most important inventors.”

Here’s the summary:

You are Philip M. Noir, Private Investigator. A mysterious young widow hires you to find her husband’s killer-if he was killed. Then your client is killed and her body disappears-if she was your client. Your search for clues takes you through all levels of the city, from classy lounges to lowlife dives, from jazz bars to a rich sex kitten’s bedroom, from yachts to the morgue. “The Case of the Vanishing Black Widow” unfolds over five days aboveground and three or four in smugglers’ tunnels, though flashback and anecdote, and expands time into something much larger. You don’t always get the joke, though most people think what’s happening is pretty funny.

Author Spotlight / 56 Comments
February 22nd, 2010 / 12:28 pm

Spec Rad Trial

Smart blog post on experimental short story by Charles May.

When Donald Barthelme’s first collection of stories, Come Back, Dr. Caligari, appeared in 1964, critics complained that his work was without subject matter, without character, without plot, and without concern for the reader’s understanding. For Barthelme, the problem of language is the problem of reality, for reality is the result of language processes.

Craft Notes & Random & Web Hype / 12 Comments
February 10th, 2010 / 6:22 pm

Postmodern 3way Slugout: Coover v. Barth v. Calvino

pricksongs or lostinthefunhouse or cosmicomics?

Random / 49 Comments
August 13th, 2009 / 9:33 pm