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The Origin of the Brunists (Coover, Robert) Paperback – November 30, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Originally published in 1966, The Origin of the Brunists was a sensational debut that won the William Faulkner Foundation Award for Best First Novel and instantly established Robert Coover's fictional mastery. Set in a small mid-American town, it begins with a coal-mine explosion that claims ninety-seven lives. Giovanni Bruno--hawk-faced, silent, some say deranged--is the only survivor. A lapsed Catholic given to peculiar visions, Bruno is adopted as a prophet by a group of secretive small-town mystics. "Exposed" by the town newspaper editor, the Brunist cult gains international notoriety and its ranks swell. As its members gather on the Mount of Redemption--above the site of the mine disaster--to await the apocalypse, and the fabric of the community begins to unravel, Robert Coover lays bare the madness of religious frenzy and the sometime greater madness of "normal" citizens. The Origin of the Brunists is vintage Coover-fearless, incisive, and brilliantly executed.

"A novel of intensity and conviction...[Coover] may become heir to Dreiser or Lewis.... He has splendid talent."--The New York Times Book Review

"A breathtaking masterpiece on any level you approach it."--Sol Yurick, author of An Island Death

"[The Origin of the Brunists] delivers the goods; it explodes on the reader...says what it has to say with rudeness, vigor, poetry and a headlong narrative momentum."--The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

Robert Coover has won fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and has been the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the Rea Award for the short story, and the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, among other honors. He has taught at Bard College, the University of Iowa, Princeton University and currently teaches electronic and experimental writing at Brown University.

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. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times has said “Of all the postmodern writers, Robert Coover is probably the funniest and most malicious, mixing up broad social and political satire with vaudeville turns, lewd pratfalls, and clever word plays that make us rethink both the mechanics of the world and our relationship to it.” Coover has also received awards from the Lannan Foundation, American Academy of Arts and Letters, National Endowment of the Arts, and the Rea Lifetime Short Story Award.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Coover, Robert
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (November 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802137431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802137432
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #958,144 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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Ng Hock Soon on September 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
Having read Coover's later books, I was rather skeptical if his earlier ones would be as good - and was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I would rate Coover's first novel as his best work: taut, earthy and powerful, it chronicles the rise and fall of a cult group called the Brunist (following the name of the so-called founder of the group, Giovanni Bruno) and how even a small, seemingly harmless and insignificant group of people can become potentially threatening to the larger community. But what I truly admire about this novel is the slow, subtle building of the narrative terror and hysteria. Coover is indeed a master of suspense and anti-climaxes, building up very tensed episodes to end them in slick, sometimes frustrating, bathos. But this only makes the novel more rewarding as the reader is never on solid ground. The prose continuously shifts and distabilises the reader's suppositions, making it almost impossible to stop reading (this is not an exaggeration). I highly recommend this electrifying novel and hope that it will reach a very wide audience.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Robert Coover's first novel, Origin of the Brunists, shows how he won so many awards for his poetry and short fiction. This is a book you won't forget. The book throws a strange group of definitely substandard people together, adds a set of bizarre events, shakes, and comes up with the most bizarre - but plausible - religion you have ever seen. Metaphysics, virtual Forteanism, downright stoicism, you name it, it gets thrown in and sort of works. The book is a study of the individuals, not the religion, but the religion serves to hold the people together. I haven't read this book in 15 years, and I'm aching to get another copy. If you like this book, try Coover's Universal Baseball Association - J. Henry Waugh, Prop., or a collection of his poetry and shortstuff, Pricksongs and Other Delights. At least one of these is in print.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tom From NY on January 17, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Coover's picture of the slow demolition of a small town, as religious fundamentalism and a town's reaction to it gradually tear the populace apart. Gripping from start to finish.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Origin of the Brunists is Robert Coover's first novel, originally published in 1966, and established Coover as a great American writer of the 20th Century. His characters- and there is a huge cast in this novel- are formed of the same clay as Steinbeck's Joads or the fellows of Cannery Row. The story itself, of an exploding and collapsing coal mine producing a latter-day oracle for the spiritually thirsty citizens of West Condon, has the epic heft of Melville. There are also dark ironies here, and reflective satire reminiscent of Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut. I chose this book because of the strange title, and from the beginning to the end, I was captivated, transported. These are people we know. This is a landscape and a story that is purely American. It is a remarkable first novel. I am very excited to have discovered Coover- and wonder how I could have missed his books all these years. I will be reading all of them.
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By Bookwoody on December 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I don't know why this writer is not in the Pantheon of Contemporary American Writers. This book is epic - and I don't mean that in the trendy sense. In short, an explosion in an Appalachian mine leaves few survivors, one comatose. Until he regains consciousness near catatonic issuing a handful of words...which are immediately seized upon by an opportunist but sincerely devout madwoman who establishes around him a cult of hysterical zealots in this small town. Like a match to tinder, the hometown hero who now owns the little newspaper decides to have some fun with it. Coover is an amazing writer, at some point in the book, we get perspectives from over a dozen characters but it doesn't feel overworked or gimmicky. If you like John Irving, this is your kind of author.
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