American Book Review celebrates 50th speaker with Robert Coover

April 2, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
Updated April 2, 2012 at 11:03 p.m.

   JULIE ZAVALA for The Victoria Advocate

Plenty of words have been used to describe Robert Coover's writing: Avant-garde, postmodern, experimental.

But it's a simple condition that makes Coover a fitting 50th speaker at the American Book Review Reading Series.

"He is a great American writer," said Uppinder Mehan, chairman of the School of Arts and Sciences Humanities at the University of Houston-Victoria.

Coover, a celebrated author who teaches electronic and experimental writing at Brown University, will read from his collection of works Thursday night at UHV.

For nearly half a century, Coover has been at the precipice of his art, exploring the use of hypertexts and electronic media, while pushing readers to examine their perceptions of grand narratives, as Mehan put it.

"He's one of the geniuses of the postmodern craft," said Jeffrey Di Leo, ABR publisher and dean of UHV's School of Arts and Sciences. "He's able to use the vernacular of the present and its kind of most progressive modes to tell stories we know and love in different ways."

While Coover has rewritten - and reinvented - fairy tales and movie scripts, he has also written fictional accounts of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and a second-person detective story, "Noir."

From his point of view, Coover said he writes, "The struggle against mythic residue - religious, political, aesthetic, cogitative - in our writings and in our lives."

Di Leo said Coover packs layers of understanding into his novels, making them both difficult to grasp and easily accessible.

And that is exactly what ABR has sought to bring to the Victoria community for the past 49 speakers.

ABR attendees "love to be challenged, and they are very supportive of different ways of viewing literature and narrative," Di Leo said. "They're patient and respectful, and what more could you ask of it?"

Di Leo said the success of the ABR Reading Series, which is in its sixth year, speaks to the quality of the city and arts community, which have embraced the series.

"What (people) don't see is the footprint around the nation and literary arts communities," Di Leo said. "They know us for this."



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