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Briar Rose & Spanking the Maid (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 28 Apr 2011


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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: 12.9 x 1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 619,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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

2.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Just William on 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 on 22 May 2011
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Viki VINE VOICE on 9 July 2011
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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 By Richard M. Seel VINE VOICE on 13 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I chose to read these two short stories by Coover as they are part of the Penguin Modern Classics series. The words on the back cover promised much ("Coover's work has long occupied a place of honour...") and so I sat down looking forward to this book. I had not read Coover before but I thought I would enjoy the stories as they were part of the Penguin Classic series and they don't usually let me down!

Alas my enthusiasm for Coover's work soon dissipated. The first of the two stories, Briar Rose, is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty but not just the simple telling of my childhood. His imagination recreates the thoughts of the three main characters, sleeping beauty, the prince and the wicked fairy/also cast as the good fairy. Coover's imagination runs riot but it is not for me. We are told that it is humorous, dark, grotesque and comic but I fear my sense of humour must be sadly lacking. I did not find it funny but it was dark and sometimes bordered on `soft porn'. It certainly could be called titillating but possibly my age lets me down and `I am not amused'.

The wicked fairy seems to create all the frightening scenarios for Briar Rose (sleeping beauty) but just as quickly the wicked fairy can become the good fairy. Briar Rose wants to carry on sleeping whilst the Prince wants to keep searching for his sleeping princess. And so the story goes on and on eternally repeating itself.

And so to the next story, Spanking the Maid. The tale here is also repetitive but manages not to repeat itself; it's interesting and clever but once again how much do I want to read about the naughty maid who can't do her work properly and needs to be spanked in a variety of different ways. The scenes seem to be contrived and master and maid an unlikely pair.
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