Robert Coover Biography
(1932– ), The Origin of the Brunists
American novelist and short-story writer, born in Charles City, Iowa, educated at the universities of Southern Illinois, Indiana, and Chicago. Coover's novels turn away from traditional ‘realist’ forms, demonstrating a post-modern sense of ‘reality’ and history as ‘made up’, fabricated, of fictions (see New Journalism). His first novel, The Origin of the Brunists (1966), was a study of the influence of charismatic religion on small-town America, and concerns the establishment of a religious cult by the survivor of a mining disaster. The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. (1968) is an allegorical novel which uses baseball as its principal metaphor to satirize American religious beliefs, and Pricksongs and Descants (1969) shows a developing interest in the overlapping boundaries between art and reality. This later developed into a technique which produced the startling The Public Burning (1976), in which the trial and judicial murder of the Rosenbergs overlaps with fantasy to produce a vigorous indictment of the McCarthy years. His other, later works Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears? (1977), in which he returned to his attack on Richard Nixon, Spanking the Maid (1981), a story about a sado-masochistic, obsessive relationship between a man and his maid, Gerald's Party (1986), A Night at the Movies (1987), and Pinnochio in Venice (1991) continued his characteristic self-reflexive preoccupation with the materiality of writing. His short story collections include Hair o' the Chine (1979), After Lazarus: A Filmscript (1980), Charlie in the House of Rue (1980), and The Convention (1982). He has also written several plays collected in A Theological Position (1972), and In Bed One Night and Other Brief Encounters (1983), which are nine satirical exercises in modernist writing.