Saturday, April 30, 2005

May's Book: Stepmother, by Robert Coover

I first came across this nerveless novella -- 90 pages long, no more than 30,000 words - while shelving fiction at Changing Hands. It's a physically very pretty book -- you can't help but adore the jacketless forest green hardcover, decorated as it is with two identical silver trees, in the shared leaves of which the title is boldly printed (also in silver), and between the trunks of which a diamond-shaped full-color picture floats, as if by magic. In the picture: a crowned and veiled queen with an emotionless look and a pointing finger; the orange hair, right ear, and naked right shoulder of some girl who the queen seems to be pointing at and whispering to; three dull green doves flying above them, one of them upside down; and the sharp smoking flames in the background with which all the action is concerned. (Is the mystery girl burning?) The book cover's two trees each hold a branch to the picture, as if presenting it in tandem to the prospective reader. Above the branches, also floating, the author's name. It feels like the introduction to a grand production; and looking at the picture on this eye-catching cover, one feels as though one is getting an early glimpse of what's on the other side of the curtain: danger, beauty, loss, mystery, magic. A place where trees are alive, where identities are concealed, where queens wear skull necklaces. It is an alluring sneak peak, and aroused enough curiosity in this naughty bookstore shelvist to entice me to find a lesser-traveled tract of the store - I won't tell you where - where I could safely explore this strange McSweeney's offering.

At the top of page 1, you get the first of 13 illustrations, all drawn by Michael Kupperman. Kupperman's famous style, as seen in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Barron's, and more, is again on vibrant display. He has an uncanny knack for creating vivid two- or three-color scenes -- he is primarily known as a comic book creator -- and, indeed, the full-color cover aside, all the illustrations in Stepmother are composed in shades and combinations of black and red: black trees, red sky; black castles, red lips; black nail-studded barrels with white maidens inside gushing rivers of bright red blood into a bright red pool. This last unsettling image is the first, the one that greets the reader at the top of page 1. And the book doesn't relent; it is violent throughout: another picture shows an index finger and thumb delicately holding a tiny pale pink baby -- as one might hold a gummy bear -- and an open, expectant mouth, into which the baby is going to be tossed; another shows a man curled up in a hole in a tree, a stain of blood about his pelvis, a trail of red drops marking his passage to the tree, and an approaching witch stirring something in a pot; and these illustrations are faithful to the words on the pages. It is provocative art; it is provocative writing. It is even perverse. There are rapes, there are mutilations, there are executions. There is torture, nudity, masochism. But in all this, like in Lolita, beginning on the very first page, there is interwoven an incredible beauty, an undeniable compassion, a heartdeep understanding of the philosophy of this dark fairy tale land that is perhaps not so far, far away.

Lolita. For those who have read Nabokov's soul-shaking novel of obsession and beauty, the idea of pretty perversity is nothing new. In that book, the narrator, Humbert Humbert, explains his pedophilia with such tenderness, such grace, such gentle passion and honest pain, that one finds it nearly impossible to hate him, despite his horrific deeds (which culminate in a murder the reader wants him to commit). Vanity Fair called Lolita "The only convincing love story of our century" -- never mind that Humbert's love was focused on a preteen, founded on pure lust, and ultimately unreciprocated. The testament of Lolita (it contains no descriptions of sexual acts, no cusswords, no directly expressed vulgarities) lies precisely in its ability to make us sing such high praises as those sung by Vanity Fair. We are reading about illegalities, immoralities, and condemning them, but all the same we are thoroughly enchanted. We can't put the damn book down. We feel as though some spell has been cast. And indeed, one has. Because, despite everything, it is a convincing love story -- a love story more beautiful, more painful (for us as well as Humbert), and more honest, than any we can remember reading -- and only magic seems able to explain for it.

Such is the case with Stepmother. It is a tale of passion and pain, poetically rendered. "Look at it this way, love, I tell her: no more slops to empty." This is the heartwrenching opening sentence, spoken by the title character (and primary narrator) to her daughter, who has been captured and awaits execution. "Of course," begins the second paragraph, "the child, naked and spread-eagled and shackled to the floor below me, expects me to get her out of this somehow. I'm a witch, I should be able to do something." After exhausting such options as magic rings and slippers (which have been misplaced or stolen), unbreakable wands (which have been broken), spells (which have been forgotten), and an invisible cloak (which is full of holes), the witch/stepmother finally does do something, and the two of them manage to escape into Reaper's Woods. And so, by simple turns of magic, certain suffering and death is (for now) avoided -- let the fairy tale begin.

Coover has reworked fairy tales before. One example is Briar Rose, a Sleeping Beauty spin published in 1997, which is so beautiful and compelling that upon finishing it, the reader, rather than close the covers and set the book down, flips back to the first page to read the whole thing over again. The reader will do the same with Stepmother. This book, quietly published last year by McSweeney's (a publishing company founded by Dave Eggers, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize finalist A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), follows the path of Briar Rose (even through the figurative thorn bushes: namely, the risks inherent in any literary reworking) and fills the footprints quite nicely - even exceeds them.

And Stepmother, like Briar Rose, claims no title for itself; it fits no one genre. It contains allegorical elements, but is much more than allegory. It is bitingly satirical, but its target, even if we think it specifically marked, remains broad and general - it is directed, upon reflection, at all of humankind. There are aspects of the tall tale, expressed mainly through descriptions of the Old Soldier, who has a list of amazing accomplishments to his penniless name. It is a fairy tale, as squeezed and twisted as it may be. But above all, it is simply a story: it comes with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and is complete with the compelling characters to guide you through it. It is a story that is at once literary and massively appealing (though the masses know nothing of it). A story that shuns modern stylistic trends (see Jonathan Safran Foer) in favor of sparklingly pure tale-telling. A story whose every word is simultaneously dark and delightful.

A story, finally, that deserves to be called supreme literature, and that may very well stand alone at the top of my favorite books list at the end of this year.


At 2:46 PM, Blogger Loy said...

You know, I may never read the books you recommend, but I will always enjoy your reviews of them. You have a wonderful way with words.

At 11:51 PM, Blogger Jason Alden Williams said...

Thanks. I do hope you continue to read my reviews, and perhaps I'll manage to convince you to read some of the books they're about. I read your story, by the way, the one that leaves off with you deciding you want a tattoo, and I'm quite intrigued. Are you going to finish it any time soon?

At 2:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Lord, I have a problem!"
"What's the problem, Eve?"
"Lord, I know you've created me and have provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals and that hilarious comedy snake, but I'm just not happy."
"Why is that, Eve?" came the reply from above.
"Lord, I am lonely. And I'm sick to death of apples." "Well, Eve, in that case, I have a solution. I shall create a man for you."
"What's a 'man,' Lord?"
"This man will be a flawed creature, with aggressive tendencies, an enormous ego and an inability to empathize or listen to you properly, he'll basically give you a hard time. He'll be bigger, faster, and more muscular than you. He'll be really good at fighting and kicking a ball about and hunting fleet-footed ruminants, But, he'll be pretty good in the sack."
"I can put up with that," says Eve, with an ironically raised eyebrow.
"Yeah well, he's better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick. But, there is one condition."
"What's that, Lord?"
"You'll have to let him believe that I made him first."
:D :D :D

shemale and cartoon and sex

At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

College students filmed their own film, rather drunk students:-)
Links here:
anime free gallery pic sex shemale
black free pussy sexy video
breast lesbian porn sex star
free gallery porn sex star
adult free hardcore sex video
ebony free hardcore sex video
free gallery group sex thumbnail
ebony free movie only picture sex
free ebony hardcore sex movie
free interracial movie sex

.info/>free full length porn

free jenna jameson lesbian porn movies
free pam anderson orgasim sex videos
anime free porn sex video
bisexual porn free trailer
clip free movie movie porn preview sex

At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

College students filmed their own film, rather drunk students:-)
Links here:
free video clip of shemale sex
free movie mpeg pussy sex woman
free sex thumbnail pussy
have sex with a porn star
amateur free hardcore nude sex teen
amateur free group pic sex
free group orgy sex trailer
free group sex teen
free ebony gay sex
free interracial anal sex
free full length porn movies
internet porn movies free
courtney cox free sex videos
anal back door free from porn sex
cartoon clip free porn sex video
clip free movie movie porn preview sex

At 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

received some mails at my blog - what to do? there are links in those letters:
cartoon porn for free download
directory download free porn
amateur anal sex video
amateur anal sex
anal sex cum shots
brazilian ass sex
asian sex big tit
asian sex hq
bed mature sex
blonde lady mature sex
anal com gay sex
backdoor teen sex
cash for black teen sex
amateur first lesbian sex
pic hairy sex woman

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello guys, maybe i shoul sell my collection? to earn some extra cash. Here are some links from my base:
amateur cam free live sex
amateur free hardcore sex video
anal black free movie sex
ass free sex
free forum password sex
asian free gay sex video
asian free natural pic sexy
free free gallery mature pic sex
bbig tits

ee-gay-having-sex-site.html>adult free gay having sex site>bear chub free gay man nude picture sex

anal double film free sex teen
clip free hot movie sex teen
black clip free lesbian sex
download free lesbian sex
free hairy sex movie

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to untroduce my home video
amateur cam free live sex
amateur free mpeg sex
anal free give picture sex
access free pass sex
free key password sex
asian free hose pantie pic sex
asian free picture sex
explicit free gallery mature sex woman
alyssa bigtits
big bouncy tits
bear foto free gay sexo>black clip free porn sex teen video

clip free gay sex teen

sex.html>black free lesbian pic sex

first free lesbian online sex story time
free hairy pussy sex video

At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Use these helpful search engines BD search & movie pages and try to find all you need in your area!

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all!. Use these helpful search engines BD search & movie pages and try to find all you need in your area!

At 6:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

does anyone think porn is the only business still thriving during the credit cruch? I think many folks seek refuge in buying and wanking porn during the crunch


At 12:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

is porn the only winner during credit crunch?


At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you ;-) you should look at that emo boy style on this blog:

At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to express more your opinion to attract more readers, because just a video or plain text without any personal approach is not that valuable. But it is just form my point of view

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)

At 5:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have copy writer for so good articles? If so please give me contacts, because this really rocks! :)

At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thank you once again.

Have a look at my homepage - buy social bookmarks
My web site - social bookmark

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was pretty pleased to find this great site.

I wanted to thank you for ones time just for this fantastic read!
! I definitely really liked every bit of it and I have you saved to fav
to look at new stuff on your site.

Feel free to visit my page :: Forex trading System

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I drop a leave a response each time I appreciate a article on a site
or if I have something to add to the conversation. It is triggered by the sincerness displayed in the article
I looked at. And on this article "May's Book: Stepmother, by Robert Coover".
I was actually moved enough to drop a thought :-) I do have a couple of questions for
you if it's okay. Could it be simply me or does it appear like some of these comments look as if they are written by brain dead individuals? :-P And, if you are posting at additional online sites, I'd like to keep
up with you. Could you make a list all of your community pages like your linkedin profile,
Facebook page or twitter feed?

my web blog: league Of Legends download

At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, after reading this remarkable post i am as well delighted
to share my experience here with colleagues.

my website: World Of Tanks Hack

At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This piece of writing offers clear idea for the new viewers of blogging, that actually how
to do blogging.

my site: Starcraft 2 Hack

At 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what you posted was actually very reasonable.

But, what about this? what if you typed a catchier post title?
I mean, I don't want to tell you how to run your blog, but what if you added a post title that makes people want more? I mean "May's Book:
Stepmother, by Robert Coover" is a little boring. You might peek at Yahoo's front page and note how they create article headlines to get people interested. You might try adding a video or a pic or two to grab readers excited about everything've got to say. In my opinion, it would bring your posts a little bit more interesting.

Feel free to surf to my site: Unknown

At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why people still use to read news papers when in this technological globe all
is accessible on net?

my web-site - Unknown

At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll right away grasp your rss as I can't in finding your email subscription link or e-newsletter service.
Do you have any? Kindly permit me recognize in order that I could subscribe.

Have a look at my web page free microsoft Points Download

At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this if off topic but I'm looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is needed to get set up? I'm assuming having
a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I'm not very web savvy so I'm not
100% sure. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you

Feel free to surf to my web blog :: how to lose Belly Fat

At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sure this paragraph has touched all the internet visitors, its really
really nice post on building up new website.

Have a look at my site - how to lose belly fat

At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I am
waiting for your further post thank you once again.

Check out my blog: Stretch marks

At 2:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though
you relied on the video to make your point. You clearly know
what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just
posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something informative to read?

Here is my web site ...

At 1:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Currently it sounds like Expression Engine is the best blogging
platform out there right now. (from what I've read) Is that what you're using on your blog?

My homepage -

At 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and also the rest
of the site is also very good.

Feel free to surf to my webpage ... Unknown

At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website?
I'm getting tired of Wordpress because I've had issues with hackers and I'm looking at options for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

My web page :: psn code generator

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This design is wicked! You most certainly know how to keep a
reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost.
..HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more
than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

Here is my web blog :: Unknown

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I'm not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You are amazing! Thanks!

My website: Unknown

At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes! Finally someone writes about texas car accident lawyer.

Feel free to visit my site ... Idealrest.Ru

At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outstanding quest there. What occurred after? Thanks!

Take a look at my weblog; Unknown

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to come by experienced people on this subject, however, you sound like you know what you're talking about!


Feel free to surf to my web blog - virgin coconut oil for hair

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tremendous issues here. I'm very glad to see your article. Thanks a lot and I'm looking ahead
to contact you. Will you please drop me a mail?

My homepage: Microsoft Office Gratuit

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there, I discovered your website by the use of Google at the same time as looking
for a comparable subject, your website came up, it looks great.
I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
Hello there, simply turned into alert to your blog thru Google, and located that it's truly informative. I am going to be careful for brussels. I will appreciate if you proceed this in future. Lots of other people shall be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

Look at my web-site

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you
writing this write-up and the rest of the site is really good.

Look at my web blog :: refinishing hardwood floors

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there! I simply want to offer you a huge thumbs up for your excellent information you have got right
here on this post. I am returning to your blog for more soon.

Feel free to visit my website:

At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to take part in a contest for one of the most useful sites on the
web. I'm going to recommend this site!

My web site Diarrhea remedies

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simply wish to say your article is as amazing.

The clearness for your put up is simply great and that i could suppose you
are knowledgeable on this subject. Well with your permission
let me to clutch your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post.
Thanks 1,000,000 and please keep up the rewarding work.

my website - PS3 Jailbreak 4.41

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi to all, because I am in fact eager of reading this web site's post to be updated on a regular basis. It contains good stuff.

Also visit my webpage; Pirater un Compte facebook

At 2:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for ps jailbreak

Also visit my blog ... Ps3 hack jailbreak

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, i read your blog occasionally and i own a
similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam comments?
If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can advise?
I get so much lately it's driving me crazy so any support is very much appreciated.

Here is my web page World Of Tanks Hack

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post gives clear idea in favor of the new visitors of blogging,
that actually how to do blogging and site-building.

Here is my web page :: candy Crush Saga cheats

At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there would you mind letting me know which
web host you're utilizing? I've loaded your blog in 3 completely different internet browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most.
Can you recommend a good internet hosting provider at a fair price?
Thanks, I appreciate it!

Here is my blog post Ps3 jailbreak

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, I've recently been searching for info approximately this topic for ages and yours is the best I've came upon till now.
But, what concerning the bottom line? Are you positive concerning the source?

Feel free to surf to my site: The Interlace ()

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.

Brief but very accurate information… Many thanks for sharing
this one. A must read post!

Also visit my website Dragon City Cheat Engine

At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there, You have done an excellent job.
I'll certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I am sure they will be benefited from this web site.

Visit my weblog - Code Psn Gratuit

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone loves what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and
coverage! Keep up the great works guys I've added you guys to my own blogroll.

Check out my web blog; 7 zip download ()

At 11:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
When I look at your blog site in Chrome, it looks fine but
when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, excellent blog!

Look into my page ... Psn Code Generator

At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good article! We will be linking to this great article on our
site. Keep up the good writing.

my web site ... Minecraft Gift Code Generator

At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I've truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

Here is my homepage - free psn Codes

At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My partner and I stumbled over here by a different website and thought I might as
well check things out. I like what I see so now i'm following you. Look forward to finding out about your web page again.

Feel free to visit my website ... Minecraft Crack


Post a Comment

<< Home