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New Yorker Fiction Review #161: "Invasion of the Martians" by Robert Coover

Image result for Coover Martians New YorkerFrom the Sept. 12th, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

I'm now officially so far behind, I don't even know why I'm continuing to do this. Adding to that, my subscription has elapsed after like four years and I haven't renewed it, mostly because it was a gift subscription. So...after I get done with the 2016 issues (which could take me all of 2017 at this rate) we'll see if I keep this going.

Robert Coover has appeared in the pages of the NYer about five times since I've been reading the fiction regularly. And while I haven't always enjoyed every story, he's a name that I like to see when I look at the mast-head, and I always read his stories eagerly. He's known for writing in a sort of fairy-tale or fable style, which is really easy and mostly fun to read and which I'm told literary critics and professors call "fabulism" and even "meta-fiction" (the story within  the story, or a story that is self-consciously a story), which I enjoy. To me a close analog is Steven Millhauser.

In this story, a proud, sexually prolific young senator from Texas has his you-know-what phasered off by some martians who have landed in his home state. He doesn't realize until he returns to his ranch to continue having sex with one of his interns, and she notices his missing manhood and bolts straight for the local news. Then follows this comically reverse process of the government and media actually asking the senator to reveal his frank-and-beans to the public, instead of chastising him for it, so they can find out whether or not it's all true. Finally he tricks them using a prosthesis.

This story is great because of it's ingenuity, taking a direction you don't expect and following it to a conclusion you don't expect. Once you find out the senator's junk has been shot off, you're off the rails and just following wherever the story goes. Fabulism at it's best. It's also got the satirical quality of making fun of society and taking something that actually happens in society and turning it on its head. Not to mention, Coover's characters are perfectly cartoonish and his world is cartoonish to match. In other words, it's consistent and it works. Funny story and fun to read.


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