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Briar Rose & Spanking the Maid (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Robert Coover
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 April 2011 Penguin Modern Classics
These two novellas by the groundbreaking, fearless, and immeasurably influential Robert Coover are dirty, funny and brilliant. In Briar Rose a sleeping beauty is trapped in an enchantment for a hundred years, dreaming of stories in which someone like her wakes up disappointed, or becomes a mother, or is stripped and defiled. And, as she dreams, outside, failed princes die and hang their remains on the thorns of a briar hedge. In Spanking the Maid a maid and her master are each committed to their own hard service: she, attempting to perform her simple duties without error; he, supplying punishment by rod, belt, hairbrush, whip, cane and slipper when she inevitably fails. These tales of desire are Coover at his most darkly playful.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (28 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141192992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141192994
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 606,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Robert Coover is one of our masters now... He seems to be able to do anything (The New York Times Book Review )

About the Author

Robert Coover is the author of twenty-some books of fiction and plays, his most recent being Noir and A Child Again. He has been nominated for the National Book Award and awarded numerous prizes and fellowships, including the William Faulkner Award, the Rea Lifetime Achievement Award for the Short Story, and a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship. His plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London, and elsewhere. At Brown University, he teaches "Cave Writing" (a writing workshop in immersive virtual reality), and other experimental electronic writing and mixed media workshops, and directs the International Writers Project, a freedom-to-write program.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Somehow it should be easier than this' 24 May 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Robert Coover is a writer's writer, a prose stylist with a hugely inventive and influential body of work behind him that has earned him prizes, fellowships and the admiration of countless other wordsmiths. My only previous experience of his work was a story contained within McSweeney's 16. Called Heart Suit, the story was printed on 14 oversized playing cards and by beginning with the King and finishing with the Joker the other 12 cards could be shuffled and read in any order. It was a nice idea although the self-contained nature of each card meant that there wasn't an awful lot to be gained narratively speaking from the shuffling. Four works of his are now getting the Penguin Modern Classics treatment with new introductions and I began with this collection of two novellas (at about 80 pages each are they long stories, novellas..?) billed as 'darkly playful introductions to Coover's writing.' John Banville provides the introduction to this volume and points out that

"Any reader who cared to know just what it is like to write a novel will be well instructed here, and will come away from the experience suitably chastened, cheeks aglow from a lesson expertly administered."

He is talking here about Spanking The Maid, a brilliant piece of writing on writing, presented as the interactions of a maid and her master. Each morning it seems they are doomed to follow the same pattern of events; she determined that today will be the day that she gets everything right, he that he will manage not to end up where he always does, administering the usual punishment. He is the writer, she the writing and the frustrations of the process are brilliantly illustrated through this master/ servant relationship.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Mrs. Fiona Wilton VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a short book of two novellas. Readable in an afternoon. I'd recommend reading these in one sitting as both stories take you to a rather intriguingly odd place- it's a little like falling down a rabbit hole.
Briar Rose is a dark re-telling of classic fairy-tales. It's pulsing with erotic metaphor which is funny in places. It's a highly readable exploration of the differences between perception and reality. The characters (and the reader) is never really sure where they are, whether they are asleep and dreaming or awake, hallucinating, dying, dead, or in some other altered state of consciousness. The writing uses repetition to brilliant effect so I often felt I'd been there before (which is entirely how the characters feel) and is why reading this in one sitting is so powerful. I really enjoyed Briar Rose and found myself wondering about how the author conceived these ideas - perhaps he drank from a little bottle beforehand. If you like subversive fairy-tales and a philosophical take on reality then you'll enjoy this.
Spanking the Maid is written in a similar style (i.e you're never quite sure 'who' is speaking) again there's repetition which adds to this odd sense of de ja vu. I wasn't as keen on this story mostly because I felt it didn't really 'go' anywhere. Whereas Briar Rose opened up ideas about the nature of consciousness this story seemed to just be dark and unusual. Having said that I enjoyed the 'trip' into a different style and type of writing and would recommend this book for something a bit different that could take you somewhere new.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The blurb on this book promised much - I was expecting an entertaining read that would get me thinking. However, I found the stories to be navel gazing playing around with the form, which while all very clever did not allow me to engage with any aspect of the tales. A tedious read, one I will not be returning to. Good for those who like this kind of fancy stuff, but if you want to be entertained forget it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unenjoyable, unfunny and unenchanting. 9 July 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I chose this book as I really wanted to try something 'different'. Unfortunately this was a little too 'different' for my tastes. A bit too vague, full of woolly thinking and half suggested ideas. Too disconnected to be called a story and too uninteresting to hold the attention fully, it was very difficult to read all the way through. Yet quite easy to pick up and put down as the same variations of phrases kept being repeated so you didn't feel as though you had to go back in case you missed anything. Not an author I would want to read anything by again. In fact, going by the other reviews of his work you either love his work or hate it. Those that love it are so fullsome in their praise that you can't help recalling the story of 'The Emperor's New Clothes'; with the dissenting voices in the crowd causing gasps of horror!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ugly stories, beautifully written 7 July 2011
By C. A. Austin VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The author, Coover, shows us why writing is called a craft. Nearly every word is carefully chosen, every turn of phrase linked to its precursors, each thought packed with meaning. The book is sublimely worked by a master craftsman. But what a strange work!

The first of these twin novellas, Briar Rose, is Sleeping Beauty told from three different perspectives: the teenage princess, locked inside her dreams for a century; the old fairy, who must teach Rose her purpose; the confident prince, hacking his way to heroic status past the bodies of those who died before him. It's an introspective piece, very funny in places as the fairy tries to keep herself motivated by giving her charge ever more peculiar dreams.

The dreams are almost entirely about sex: perverted sex, painful sex, incest, bestiality, violence and some things you'd hardly associate with sex at all. In spite of all her dream sex, the princess never reaches fulfilment - she waits for her rescuer to fill her, physically and metaphorically, with love.

Meanwhile, the optimistic young man outside the castle suffers his thorn-inflicted wounds bravely, sustained by thoughts of love and glory. Sadly for our princess, it seems the glory moves him more than love - we know he'll never be satisfied in his quest, but neither he nor Rose is aware of that yet.

If the story has a meaning - and I'm not sure it does - it would be about dissatisfaction and futility. Briar Rose, the embodiment of female beauty, is a sex object where really she yearns for love. The prince strives and suffers for recognition: but will any crown be big and bright enough for him? As a comedy crone with magic powers, the fairy has to do her repetitive job for as long as it takes: infinite power brings tedious responsibility.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Robert Coover
Newly inaugurated into the Penguin Modern Classics imprint, Robert Coover's Briar Rose & Spanking the Maid presents two novella-length twisted fairytales in the very best Angela... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Erin Britton
2.0 out of 5 stars He may be good but not for me.
I was interested and intrigued by the titles and the blurb on he cover- Coover has won numerous prestigious prizes and is rated as a 'Master' by Angela Carter. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Lily
4.0 out of 5 stars Profane, slight, brilliant
Set in ridiculously large type, as if a children's book, and with a very brief introduction by John Banville, this slim volume contains two of Coover's stories. Read more
Published on 15 May 2012 by The Fisher Price King
1.0 out of 5 stars Vile abuse
I can only describe this as a twisted fantasy of rape and abuse, so much so that it is not in any way enjoyable to read, and the writing itself just drags. Read more
Published on 24 Nov 2011 by M. Bray
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging read by a master writer
Modern classics they may be, but this was my first introduction to Robert Coover. John Banville's introduction speaks in glowing terms of Coover's two novellas, particularly... Read more
Published on 24 Oct 2011 by J. Dawson
3.0 out of 5 stars Briar Rose & Spanking The Maid
Robert Coover has recently been added to the list of Penguin Modern Classics authors, and this book is an interesting collection of two of his novellas. Read more
Published on 19 Oct 2011 by B. Wright
4.0 out of 5 stars Princes are an unreliable, beastly lot
A prince hacks repeatedly through the thorns surrounding a castle where Sleeping Beauty - Briar Rose - waits to be roused from her 100 year (not so virginal) slumber. Read more
Published on 27 Sep 2011 by Four Violets
1.0 out of 5 stars I dont understand this book
Robert Coover might be "one of our masters now..." (from the cover of his book) but I for one did'nt enjoy this book let alone understand it. Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2011 by S. J. Hughes
2.0 out of 5 stars Too stylised for me.
This is a clever and accomplished writer but someone who I think is bound to divide readers quite starkly into two camps. Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2011 by doublegone
3.0 out of 5 stars A slim intelligent entertainment.
It's more about the art of storytelling, than telling a story. So anyone looking for traditional plot and developed characters will be disappointed. Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2011 by Useless Article
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