Robert Coover: The Universal Fictionmaking Process

By Lois Gordon | Go to book overview

6
A Theological Position In the Beginning

Coover is unique among the younger postmoderns in publishing in virtually every genre -- novel, short story, poetry, drama, and filmscript. His dramas -- his "book of acts" ( 1972) -- once more deal with the existential paradox, the difficult assertion of freedom and pleasure in a contingent and ultimately deterministic universe. Again, Coover focuses on the necessity, and yet danger, of imposing history and myth upon the reality of random event, the inevitable distortions of imposing structure upon felt experience. For the artist, these dangers are of special concern. Drama, for example, would seem to be the most distorting of forms, since in addition to its reliance upon the metaphor of language to convey experience, it relies upon an actor's reading of a director's interpretation -- all of which must finally submit to an audience's final "reading."One might consider drama as both an emblem and metaphor of the problems of epistemology.

Especially innovative is Coover's technique. His drama resembles, in an unusual way, the morality play. It transforms the abstract characters of good and evil into anonymous figures representative of either the tabula rasa of felt experience or the flat and lifeless abstractions of legend, myth, and history. Nameless and often interchangeable, these "characters" are, in a sense, nonverbal vessels which, the moment the "action" begins, necessarily take on verbal identity. They are the word itself, instant projections of the individual-artist-creator-director-God -- in the creative moment of feeling experience. Or, they are abstract, passionless, historical figures or archetypes. Their "development" involves their interaction with other verbal structures or with other mythic, historical, allegorical "significations." Defined by context, they may at times seem to

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