Read John's Wife by Robert Coover Online


The bestselling author of "The Public Burning" spins a darkly magical tale about life in an ordinary small town and the woman who casts a spell on its inhabitants....

Title : John's Wife
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780684830438
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 432 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

John's Wife Reviews

  • Nathan
    2019-03-31 13:55

    And now, Coover Completionism!Were I a talented writer with a developed bit of wit, I’d write a parody of one of those saccharine reviews that simply gushes about John’s Wife (know that her name is apostrophed) and you’d all rush out to tbr this wonder. But I’m not. So I’ll settle for exclaiming that John’s Wife ought to count more highly in the esteem of Coover readers ; it ought to count up there with The Public Burning, even if the fireworks are a tad more restrained. And Coover readers ought to count as the average reader, but alas. However, as I declaim how great is John’s Wife I’m fully aware that I’m tempted that direction a bit by the degree to which it is a more normalish=novel ; more normalish than the middleclass nightmare of Gerald’s Party (also apostrophed ; and both employing to fine effect the parentheticalization of subclause’d thoughts) and more realist than Pinocchio and nothing at all like the pyrotechnics of Lucky Pierre. What it is is a slightly more salty Coover than the Brunist-realist phase ; one sees here the overlap. Not that Coover was attempting that kind of middle=class Updikism (as Theroux’s An Adultery maybe kind of did) because you can’t put a Gargantua-ette (that would be a female Gargantua) into a bourgeois novel. But speaking of the bourgeois novel, it’s not really that, but more like the American Small Town Novel of which variety I’ve been reading several recently -- combine that setting (of the sort I grew up in several times ; I think there were at least three) with a large cast of characters and a floating PoV and you get a set of significant, unremarked upon novels which successfully avoid the First Person Terror (ie, PoV) and result in what is frequently derided as “PoMo” -- I mean of course Coover’s own Brunist novels and Evan Dara’s novels and Jeff Bursey’s novels (I know, he’s Canadian, but I said “American” and my America is large) ;; probably extends back to things like Sinclair Lewis ; and there’s at least an Indian version in Kanthapura. At any rate, John’s Wife, well, it’s about us. Which might account for why it won’t be a novel for every reader ; we’re not pretty. Pedanticity Warning!!!______________I’ve thought about chunking up Coover’s oeuvre. It’s not really a matter of chronology since the time of the writing too often does not coincide with its publication. For instance, The Adventures of Lucky Pierre: Director’s Cut was written over a period of forty years, published finally in 2002. Publication of The Public Burning (1977) was delayed several years due to legal sweaty=palms. A Political Fable (1980), was first published as “The Cat in the Hat for President” in New American Review in 1968. So instead, sort of a genre=chunking of his many books published, lo, these past 50 years.I. The Brunist/Realist BooksHere, naturally, belong his two Brunist tales, The Origin of the Brunists (1966) and The Brunist Day of Wrath (2014). But I’d also place his popular The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. here since the depiction of Henry’s fall into his fictional world is more or less realistically portrayed. Naturally, as with all Fiction, these three are richly meta=phictional. II. The Short Stuff :: Novellas and Short StoriesQuite, true, these could/should be divided in half, but in my book, they kind of do similar things, ie, produce perfect pieces (unless they fail, etc). The novellas almost seem like formal perfection and have been functioning quite well for introducing readers to Coover’s genius. Roughly in order of my esteem of them--correction :: I just can’t do that ::Ghost TownSpanking the MaidWhatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears*Briar RoseNoirA Political Fable*StepmotherThe stories are strewn around. There’s the classics -- A Night at the Movies or, You Must Remember This (film and the movies saturate Coover’s writing) and Pricksongs and Descants. The fable stuff -- A Child Again. And In Bed One Night & Other Brief Encounters. The recent stuff, still uncollected, but listed (naturally against the rules) in the gr=db and available (often) free to read -- don’t miss “Going for a Beer”!! * (to be read in conjunction with The Public Burning)III. The NovelsPretty much the Coovers no one reads. But should ::Gerald’s Party -- in which the ‘I’ is apostrophized* (199 ratings  ·  22 reviews )Pinocchio in Venice (161 ratings  ·  26 reviews )The Adventures of Lucky Pierre: Director’s Cut -- really pretty much an unendurable masterpiece (52 ratings  ·  9 reviews )John’s Wife -- in which ‘she’ is apostrophized* (84 ratings  ·  7 reviews )All four are of the genre tour de force or something ; but readers with weak stomachs will have already avoided them and/or won’t have the patience to endure them. None of them are of that comfort=making kind of novel. All will seem perhaps on the long side for those who have loved the small doses of similar stuff in the shorter works. But I think it’s a pity more people do not read them ; they’re a great antidote to the extremely conservative nature our literary scene has taken on in recent years decades. *to complete the apostrophe trilogy, we’ll draft Noir in which ‘you’ is apostrophizedIV. The Public BurningStands on its own, naturally. It consists of one part realist (see I. above) and one part insanity, a blend of The Novels & The Short Stuff. And then some miscellaneous stuff only Completionists might be interested in -- A Theological Position (a collection of plays) and The Grand Hotels (of Joseph Cornell) (a kind of tribute, I think), for instance. And several extremely small print=runs of stuff collectors=only (see Friend Brian’s copy of Spanking the Maid). But I think that’s most of it, mostly. But so, Coover is simply on a grand scale. Joyce. Faulkner. Gaddis. That kind of level. Pure/sheer American genius (I remind you of my inability to properly compose the saccharine that would be antidote to these bold claims). That he is not thoroughly known (although frequently you might find articles about his students and influencees dropping his name), that his name is not habitually lined up on that line of, for instance, Fitzgerald-O’Connor-Hemingway-Updike-Etc-Faulkner, says a whole lot more about our literary culture than it does about the value of Coover’s works. And, I’d really have to insist, if you were to ask, yes, Coover is more long=haul improve-with-age than might be the fading light of his fellow=master, John Barth. These Coover books (Donald Duck for President?!?!) will hold up very nicely these next several coming decades.

  • The Crimson Fucker
    2019-04-07 12:41

    Alfonso's report on John's Wife at page 201:Ok I'ma try to explain my case…Why do I think this book is crap, Alfonso? Look, I don't mind complicated plots. I don't mind reading 40 pages of a dude clipping his toenails as long as I, you know, find the character intresting. I don't mind having to deal with a 10 page long dramatis personae section, I don't mind family trees that will scare the living shit out of almost everyone I know, I don't mind reading 388 footnotes… but I need to honestly care for those character to put on with all that crap… feel a connection with the characters. I don't least think they funny, cool or something… but this one. Oh god, this one!! It's just a bunch of stupid motherfuckers for whom I couldn't care less! Seriously, do I really want to know how some dude gets a better hard on when some dude he don't like is not around??? Or do I really want to read 2 pages on a senile dude expending days looking for the fucking gun that he is planning to use to blow up his head cuz he forgot where he hid it???? I feel like a whole town full of retards* decided to come to me and tell me about all the meaningless shit that happened in their lives and there is no cool breaking of the fourth wall or some shit here so I could at least entertain myself by imagining what would I do if I were the town's shrink. I'd act like I was Jack Kevorkian…. I'd start with the old dude… tell him about the Peanut Project… and how he could get himself one of those kick ass "exit bags" from Canada. Or since this book came out in 1997, I could prescribe some Nembutal to the dumb fuck and tell him exactly how to do it… or today, when after reading for few minutes, I did the dreaded "let me see how many pages of the crappy book I've read so far" and realized that it was only 10!!!! The horror!!! So I decided to spice things up by imagining how cool it would be if an outbreak of the T-virus started on that little small town and they all turned into zombies and me and Leon*2 were sent there to kick ass and kill zombies. And then I started to imagine how cool it would be to shoot all those stupid retards while screaming at them how annoyed I was with all their stupid bitching… then I started wondering if it was ok to fantasize about shooting fictional characters, and decided it was ok, cuz in my fantasy they were zombies and it's ok to kill zombies (they like Nazis or hippies…. You know nobody cares if you shoot a few). There is no law saying the contrary, and it's socially accepted. I mean zombie shootouts are in vogue!! Then I freaked out cuz I wasted like 10 minutes daydreaming about shooting zombies, decapitating zombies, throwing Molotov cocktails at zombies, and many other fun ways to kill zombies…. Well there you have Paper the reason why I don't like this book is simple… I just don't care about anybody in it….*: for some reason song #34 of Anal Cunt's 3rd album started playing in my head while writing that sentence.*2: if y'all don't know who Leon on… google it god damn it!!! every zombie fan should know who Leon is!!!Alfonso’s report on Jonh’s Wife…. (Final)Ok… I recently learned to abridge shit… so I’ma give this piece of crap a try:Jonh’s Wife…………………….ABRIDGED!:We open with some bull shit followed by more bull shit then some “plot” that makes no sense, then some stupid awkward, senseless transitions where you have to go back and re read again cuz you aint sure how if you was reading about a girl 2 sentences ago and now she has a penis? Them some more useless craps about characters that are completely unrelated to what you were thinking about the plot was, then something about some dude and a camera and some weird senseless philosophical shit that has something to do with aesthetics or something like that, then a lot of malls, construction companies, and I don’t know some weird rivalry between a weird girl and John and then he mention john’s wife and some different people want to fuck her or fuck her up and I don’t know I think it had something to do with love… then more shit, more awkward transitions, more bull shit, something to do with a crazy bitch and a retard and them hanging out and stealing food, and then some hunt and more shit more awkward transitions, guns a whale hunt, somebody masturbates with a shotgun, people die, a quick wrap it up copout maneuver and the end!

  • Jonathan
    2019-04-12 13:58

    John Barth's copy of John's Wife, with letter from the publisher, now in my hands and ready for me to (carefully) read...

  • Mala
    2019-04-16 18:07

    And when the dust cleared, all that was left standing was the big front door, completely intact, columns, architrave, and all. Majestic. Inviting. But opening onto nothing. (284)In John's Wife, Coover shows the need for mythical narratives to give meaning to our mundane lives. Even a back of beyond nameless "little prairie town" has to be given an updated mythology to stay relevant in the changing times; the origin tales of this pioneer town having grown stale from stasis. Coover gives the sly hint in the very opening paragraph of this book: Once, there was a man named John. John had money, family, power, good health, high regard, many friends. Though he worked hard for these things, he actually found it difficult not to succeed; though not easily satisfied, he was often satisfied, a man whose considerable resources matched his considerable desires. A fortunate man, John. He was a builder by trade: where he walked, the earth changed, because he wished it so, and, like as not, his wishes all came true. Closed doors opened to him and obstacles fell. His enthusiasms were legendary. He ate and drank heartily but not to excess, played a tough but jocular game of golf, roamed the world on extended business trips, collected guns and cars and exotic fishing tackle, had the pleasure of many women, flew airplanes, contemplated running for Congress just for the sport of it. In spite of all that happened to his wife and friends, John lived happily ever after, as though this were somehow his destiny and his due.Seems like we have stumbled upon a modern fairytale, doesn't it?But we all know that fairy tales have their dark side too...In its insistence upon stories & more stories, John's Wife reminded me of Gass' Israbestis Totts — his role here being taken by the town historian Ellsworth in his position as the editor of 'The Town Crier' which keeps track of every detail happening in the town, esp. as recounted in the column 'I Remember'. It's significant that as the town passes through its worst crisis, the paterfamilias of the town, i.e. John, is out of town, & the town rag is no longer available, but once they are back in action, the town finds its sustenance through them. As one character had presciently grasped : She sometimes had the weird feeling that John had brought to this town, not Waldo, but her, and no doubt others like her as well, not out of any sense of caring for an old flame (that was flattering herself), and not just to make her eat shit and feel the fool either, though she wouldn’t put it past him, but just because, a smalltowner to the bone, he’d started up these stories and wanted to keep them all around him, see how they all came out.Almost makes me wonder why this book wasn't called John's Town?!So what role does the enigmatic nameless John's wife play in the narrative? In the metafictional artist's track & the town photographer Gordon's obsessive search for the ideal (another record-keeper of the town's evolving history), we see the larger import of this eponymous figure in that the reader is also partaking in the town photographer's voyeurism & the artist's search for his muse is analogous to the townspeople curious relation to the elusive Mrs John. The closing paragraph of this book will make the readers consider her in a new light if they hadn't already.As a complex narrative the book is operating on many levels — on a surface level it's a highly effective realistic satire of small town life: it is never a pretty sight when literature holds a mirror to life. Like Dutch's two-way mirrors in his highway motel where, He’d seen it all, Dutch had, over the dozen years since then, a seamless flow: Marriage nights, adulteries, group gropes. Old guys taking virgin blood. Young kids fumbling. Child sex, dog sex, toilet sex, you name it. Rapes and whippings, faggots and dykes. Gangbangs. Incest. But mostly forlorn meat-beaters, all alone. Melancholy places, highway motels. A lot of f***ing solitary sadness, Coover's book eviscerates the myth of small town wholesomeness by showing the rot within, and the ugliness we hide behind the facades of community, religion, love, marriage, friendship, progress, change, — you name it! It's a cauldron of seething passions. Honestly, I wouldn't want to live there.John's Wife explores the nature of desire as mediated & perverted by the twin engines of power & sexuality and where they might lead us. What do you do when you already have a perfect life? Where do you go from there?! The book's tongue-in-cheek opening lines endowing John with a faux mythic allure, an allure, which then must be stripped away to lead to the bonfire of the vanities. None escapes the writer's critical eye except one — the titular John's wife (and to some extent Pauline & Barnaby). And that is because Coover doesn't turn on the searchlight upon her; she remains the faithful Penelope to John's wandering (eye) Odysseus. "John and his wife, in fact, are the twin suns of the small town where this raucous and disturbing novel is set." A cynosure of all eyes, her presence as indispensable as a definiendum’s to a definition. The residents of this town may choose to love or hate her but she remains the one unsullied figure round whom their fantasies revolve. Seems we all need our illusions in life...To those readers who see misogyny in the text, I'd like to remind them that here men fare even worse! & if misogyny exists in the text it's because it exists in the patriarchal society as depicted here where women can get the better of men only by being smarter & more ruthless. The seemingly fantastical plot involving Pauline while adding to the mythology of the town also gives a superb turn (view spoiler)[ to the hopeless narrative of a girl abused & left in a ditch after the stag night orgy, but from that same Settler's Woods area she rises as a Rabelaisian giantess to terrorise the whole town! The town's dirty secret is now literally so huge it cannot be denied. I don't find that misogynistic; I find that empowering. Ditto for Gretchen & her amazing fecundity. Anybody can see she is one of those grotesques from fairy/folk tales.(hide spoiler)]But John's Wife is not about the battle of the sexes; rather it deplores the mindset where, if you are successful, you can get away with anything.This shows mainly in Coover's ambivalence towards John — he is a flawed mythic hero for these flawed times. There's a nostalgia for a simpler less hypocritical times but Coover astutely shows that evil practices continued even then: e.g., incest is not something that happens only to trailer-trash Pauline; it happened to a woman like Opal too. In The Babysitter, Coover had explored America's sexual fascination with this type and, in Gerald's Party, the dark side of suburbia, here he lays bare the heartbreaks behind small town lives & ambitions - the bloated provincial crassitude of this bumpkin town. A town where almost everyone has got nasty secrets & midway point onwards things reach hysterical proportions or as they say shit hits the roof.John's Wife is my favorite of Coover's PoV trilogy (the others being Noir and Gerald's Party). The omniscient narration moves so smoothly spread across shifting points of view, recounting all the tangled lives, mixing past & present times, & blending a zany surrealistic element into it, it makes you stand up & applaud. Coover in a realist mode may be hard to imagine (!) but this is really an ambitious & engaging work with just the right amount of humor, irony & detached amusement. There's pathos too for these f***ed up lives. Discovering someone's deepest disappointments & broken dreams is never an easy moment — & John's Wife is filled with such moments.This is Coover's American Vanity Fair — America needs its success stories; no matter what the cost.

  • Tony
    2019-03-27 13:38

    Sexually crude, misogynistic to the point of (hopefully) caricature, with constantly, kaleidoscopically changing points of view in long, one to two page paragraphs, hard to follow for that, which I am hopefully recreating to some extent with a run-on sentence of my own; but back to Coover, who is supremely gifted and not a little twisted and in John's Wife has taken the residents of a small town and filleted them in what I can only describe as an updated version of Updike's Couples without the sexual timidity of the 60s and jazzed with the literary pyrotechnics of, say, Donald Antrim. I was annoyed, offended and highly entertained. I'll read more of his stuff.

  • Melanie
    2019-03-21 17:50

    One of the back-cover blurbs describes this novel as "kaleidoscopic," and when I read that I was like, "oh, I highly doubt that"...but it actually IS kaleidoscopic, a story that shifts POVs and spins in and out and around the interconnected lives of the inhabitants of a small town. At the center is John, a man who's admired, feared, loved, and despised, and the mysterious woman known only as John's wife. When it became apparent that Coover was going to refuse to give John's wife a name, I was a little annoyed--not another story about men projecting their desires and miseries onto a nameless, idealized woman!--but the annoyance fell away when his decision began to make sense, probably around the time that the narrative became slightly surreal and more than a little unsettling. It's a deeply strange story embedded in a deceptively simple suburban-angst package, but it's definitely worth reading, particularly for fans of Don DeLillo, Donald Barthelme, and maybe John Updike (although I don't actually care for Updike myself...)

  • Dan
    2019-04-15 15:03

    Nightmarish and hallucinatory. A convincing portrait of the (sometimes stultifying) realities and (often pornographic) fantasies of small town life. Employing a "cliffhanger" technique whereby he describes the events in one plotline, bringing it to a critical point, and then switching to another of the plotlines, Coover keeps multiple plotlines developing and interesecting through the book. Reading it was something like watching a juggler keep a dozen balls in motion all at once, but also like a memory test, as with each new page there seems to be another opportunity to try to remember where one has seen this or that character before.

  • Jim
    2019-04-07 16:59

    Excellent book.. Of the charecters you meet, you acctualy KNOW John's wife the least (she rememains nameless). The novel kind of rotates around her much in the same way the moon rotates around earth. As the title charecter fades away, the charecters lives kind of spin out of control. Oddly Beautiful book.

  • Kathi
    2019-04-05 10:56

    I had to read several times but wor4h it. I liked the complex characters. The misogyny was so typical of mid size suburbia of the Midwest even today. The women who had any sense were old and/or dead. And I still am pissed we never got her name. lol

  • Adam
    2019-04-11 12:08

    Not sure I'd recommend this, though I thought it was good. Great combination of high and low art, with complex descriptions of utter depravity.