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Noir: A Novel Hardcover – March 4, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Metafiction lustily mates with hard-boiled mystery in this hilarious homage to Raymond Chandler and company. A sexy widow with plenty to hide hires private eye Philip M. Noir to look into her husband's mysterious death. Noir slips on his gumshoes and lacy underwear and hits the mean streets, where he encounters the Creep, Fingers, Rats, Snark, and an elusive fat man named Fat Agnes. He even meets people who live in a different world. It was called daytime. Prolific postmodernist Coover (The Public Burning) adds his dazzling two bits to the deconstructionist turf Paul Auster prowled in the New York Trilogy. There's a mystery here, but you're a street dick, not a metaphysician, the second-person narrative explains. Like Thomas Pynchon in 2009's Inherent Vice, Coover pops off laughs on every page: Her brother is in it somewhere and he is said also to be wearing women's underpants and a bra.... Is he your double? No, you don't have a bra. And don't forget, Chandler was really funny, too. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Give a writer a long enough career and he will write a mystery, apparently. In Coover’s nightmarish narrative, private investigator Philip M. Noir wanders the rain-slicked streets of the nighttime city, chasing clues down blind alleys, interrogating guys named “Rats” on the waterfront, and getting conked on the head and left for dead. Noir’s settings and logic are dreamlike: tunnels connect everything, and characters appear suddenly at Noir’s most nakedly vulnerable moments. Some passages, such as an extended riff on a prostitute whose tattooed skin is used by rival gangsters to send messages, are vintage Coover, over the top and funny. But others feel like a parody of an already dusty archetype (when Prairie Home Companion beats you to it, you’re really late to the party). And where, in Ghost Town (1998), Coover used the western to undermine enduring American mythology, or, in Lucky Pierre (2002), psychoanalyzed us through pornography, he just doesn’t have as much to say here. Long-waiting Coover fans will still enjoy this lesser work for its language and imagery; mystery buffs will be mystified. --Keir Graff

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Press; 1 edition (March 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590202945
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590202944
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #678,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Coover has published fourteen novels, three short story collections, and a collection of plays since The Origin of the Brunists received the The William Faulkner Foundation First Novel Award in 1966. At Brown University, where he has taught for over thirty years, he established the International Writers Project, a program that provides an annual fellowship and safe haven to endangered international writers who face harassment, imprisonment, and suppression of their work in their home countries. In 1990-91, he launched the world's first hypertext fiction workshop, was one of the founders in 1999 of the Electronic Literature Organization, and in 2002 created CaveWriting, the first writing workshop in immersive virtual reality.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To borrow the second person voice ("you") that controls the narrative of Robert Coover's new novel, "Noir", let it be noted at the outset that you fall within one of three groups.

1 - You are a Coover aficionado and have read most or all of his output to date. You will buy or borrow the newly released "Noir" and read its slim 192 pages in a feverish swoon, critics be damned. If, at some point, you find yourself reading reviews of "Noir" (even, Lord help you, these amateur ones on Amazon) it's because you've finished the book and want to relive the experience or compare your reaction to others. Or:

2 - You have read one or two Coover books (maybe as part of a post-modern lit course) and want to catch up with what the 78-year-old author is doing nowadays. Is he still in the game, you wonder? The news is positive. You will find the pages of "Noir" chock full of Coover's signature mordant wit and claustrophobic worldview. Years ago NY Times book critic Michiko Kakutani observed: "Of all the post-modernist writers, Robert Coover is probably the funniest and most malicious." So, yes, you'll find "Noir" fitfully laugh-inducing -- especially if you're in the mood for a relentless, demented, hallucinogenic parody of crime fiction. If at its end you are ambivalent about the book, well, that is not uncommon with Coover. Upon closing the book you may place a hand on your belly and think to yourself, that was not so much a satisfying meal as a bitter entrée. More likely you will be so delighted by its denouement, which incorporates street philosophy, word play, and all-around cleverness, that you will forgive and forget having been dragged through some slow sections. Or:

3 - Coover is entirely new to you.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Coover Gets with His Inner Gumshoe

You read a lot of hard-boiled fiction. Maybe even a little too much. The kinda little too much Cocteau called "just enough." You cut your teeth on Chandler and Hammett and James M. Cain. Learned to crack wise through Mickey Spillane. You got your dark view of the world from Jim Thompson. Consider yourself an authority on Elmore Leonard. And you've spent a good chunk of a hard life alongside walk-alones like Travis McGee, Hoke Mosley, Harry Bosch and Elvis Cole.

You prefer alleys to main drags, suits to denim, highballs to beer. You speak fast, think once and never apologize, no matter how wrong they say you are. You've got swollen knuckles, a tin ear and a chip on your shoulder that's been around so long it's got a name.

When you heard word that Robert Coover had gotten with his inner gumshoe, you weren't mad. In fact, you were pleased by the news. You saw that he called his experiment Noir, and you said "What else?" And when you got the book in your hands, you didn't put it down until you'd reached The End.

You didn't mind that the antihero's name was Philip M. Noir because you know it comes from the best. You didn't care that the bad guy was called Mr. Big, the alley cat was christened Rats, or that Noir had the hots for a dame named Flame. You were even somewhat charmed by the fact that "her lovers were called moths."

You dug the stuttering neon, the puddled shadows, the holstered heaters. And you knew what was coming when the veiled widow showed up in need of a peeper. Tomorrow was gonna be black-and-blue, and you couldn't wait.

In truth, the whole book is a bruise, punctuated by dead bodies, and it smarts. You wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
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Format: Hardcover
Redolent of Raymond Chandler's iconic private eye Philip Marlow and Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade, Coover's coincidentally named Philip M. Noir pays tribute to the genre with this hilariously ribald, hard-boiled private eye mystery. The prolific Brown University professor's first novel earned the 1966 William Faulkner Award. This is Coover's 23rd work of fiction, after 1998's GHOST TOWN, and his first foray into experimental crime fiction in second-person narration ("You" versus "I"). Through second-person narrative, "you" sample wine "from some country you've never heard of called Bordox. Sounds like an antacid or a cleansing agent. Tastes like one, too."

Dubious characters Rats, Snark and Creep "live in a different world. It was called daytime." When Noir claims someone poisoned "you" by putting something in your drink, sassy assistant Blanche says, "Yeah. It's called alcohol." Though you are in a perpetual booze-haze, "a hunch is to a gumshoe what a skirt is to a letch: a tease; pursuit; trouble." You-as-Noir are "not so much a private eye as an eyer of privates. Your university days." The lack of quote marks surrounding dialogue is only slightly disconcerting, a ruse that causes readers to slow down and enjoy the sojourn.

A sexy mystery woman with noir secrets hidden behind widow's weeds hires gumshoe Noir to investigate her husband's mysterious death. When Blanche asks "Whatever made you take up this case?" Noir responds, "Well, she has nice legs." ("You randy old letch.")

A mystic muse, Coover introduces his irreverent, avant garde interpretation of the detective novel with zany but richly written hyperbole. You "tugged your fedora down...hands in trenchcoat pockets, stepped out into the grim wet night.
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