Fiction Robert Coover John's Wife

ISBN 13: 9780684818412

John's Wife

3.61 avg rating
( 98 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780684818412: John's Wife

A satirical fable of small-town America centers on a builder's wife and the erotic power she exerts over her neighbors, transforming before their eyes and changing forever their notions of right and wrong. 25,000 first printing. Tour.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Our most abrasive and challenging postmodernist (Pinocchio in Venice, 1990, etc.) writes at pretty nearly peak level in this mock-epic chronicle of the vagaries of sex, greed, and death in an unnamed midwestern town whose inhabitants are all linked together by their admiration for--or friendship or obsession with--the opaque title character. John is a prominent building contractor, wealthy and successful beyond his envious neighbors' wildest dreams. His gorgeous wife (herself unnamed) ``always seemed,'' we're told, ``to be at the very heart of things in town, an endearing and ubiquitous presence, yet few of the town's citizens, if asked, could have described her.'' Nevertheless, Gordon, the local photographer, surreptitiously snaps pictures of her unawares; Floyd, who manages John's hardware stores, has blunter designs on her beauty; Ellsworth, who edits the Town Crier and nurses artistic pretensions, makes her the heroine of his fondest fantasies; Daphne, her best friend, wonders whether she really knows her at all. The woman makes only teasing, fleeting appearances throughout, and we never come to know her. We are, however, made privy to a rich, raffish cross-section of village life, a generous array of sharply realized characters: Otis the lawman, reluctantly involved with Gordon's notorious wife Pauline, a pathetic victim of childhood sexual abuse for whom a violent fate awaits; ``Mad Marge,'' the woman who can't get along with anybody and perversely decides to run for mayor; and a ragtag collection of hormonally unsettled teenagers whose melodramatic rites of passage are transcribed with delicious wit. It's fun watching Coover pull all this random (and randy) material together, his energy never flagging, as the novel surges toward its extended climax during the town's annual Pioneers Day barbecue--then toward a stunning d‚nouement that expertly plaits together a dozen or more loose ends and offers, for good measure, an unnerving surprise on the very last page. A pitch-perfect, pitch-black comedy, and one of Coover's most elegant and entertaining books yet. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Perhaps the most versatile?and funniest?of America's manically inventive postmodernist writers who came of age in the 1960s and '70s (a group that includes Donald Barthelme, John Barth and William Gaddis), Coover has always been the most adept at placing middle-American life under his looking glass and transmuting it into a metaphysical carnival. John is a mall-builder: "where he walked, the earth changed, because he wished it so, and like as not, his wishes all came true." John and his wife, in fact, are the twin suns of the small town where this raucous and disturbing novel is set. Everybody desires John's wife, "yet few of the town's citizens, if asked, could have described her." She is the screen on which everyone projects his or her desires. Floyd, the born-again tough who runs John's pharmacy, wants John's wife purely as an expression of his class animus. But her core is elusive, to say the least, as the town's minister can attest when, during a tryst with John's wife, she disappears after lifting her dress up over her head. John's wife begins, literally, to fade in increments?a situation for which some in town, latching onto superstition, consider blaming the local photographer, who has mades it his life's work to do "a complete study of her, in all her public and private aspects." As in Gerald's Party, Coover flits from one character's perspective to another's (but never that of John's wife). His prose is, as always, biting and suggestive, a spicy blend of erudition and scatology, epic and farce. It's the perfect vehicle for bringing the surreal action and manic cogitation of these characters into sharp detail?fitting ornamentation for his fun-house reflections of the shape of human desire. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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