Robert Coover

Robert Lowell Coover (born February 4, 1932) is an American novelist, short story writer, and T.B. Stowell Professor Emeritus in Literary Arts at Brown University.[1] He is generally considered a writer of fabulation and metafiction.

Robert Coover
Coover in 2009
Coover in 2009
Born (1932-02-04) February 4, 1932 (age 88)
Charles City, Iowa, United States
Alma materSouthern Illinois University Carbondale
Indiana University (B.A.)
University of Chicago (M.A.)
GenreShort story, novel
SpouseMaría del Pilar Sans Mallafré (1959–present)


Coover was born in Charles City, Iowa.[2] He attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale, received his B.A. in Slavic Studies from Indiana University in 1953,[3] then served in the United States Navy. He received an M.A. in General Studies in the Humanities from the University of Chicago in 1965. In 1968, he signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[4] Coover has served as a teacher or writer in residence at many universities. He taught at Brown University from 1981 to 2012.[5][6][7]

Coover's wife is the noted needlepoint artist Pilar Sans Coover.[8][9][10] They have three children, including Sara Caldwell.[11]

Literary careerEdit

Coover's first novel was The Origin of the Brunists, in which the sole survivor of a mine disaster starts a religious cult. His second book, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., deals with the role of the creator. The eponymous Waugh, a shy, lonely accountant, creates a baseball game in which rolls of the dice determine every play, and dreams up players to attach those results to.

Coover's best-known work, The Public Burning, deals with the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in terms that have been called magic realism. Half of the book is devoted to the mythic hero Uncle Sam of tall tales, dealing with the equally fantastic Phantom, who represents international Communism. The alternate chapters portray the efforts of Richard Nixon to stage the execution of the Rosenbergs as a public event in Times Square.

A later novella, Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears offers an alternate Nixon, one who is devoted to football and sex with the same doggedness with which he pursued political success in this reality. The theme anthology A Night at the Movies includes the story "You Must Remember This", a piece about Casablanca that features an explicit description of what Rick and Ilsa did when the camera wasn't on them. Pinocchio in Venice returns to mythical themes.

Coover demonstrating the "CaveWriting" software

Coover is one of the founders of the Electronic Literature Organization. In 1987 he was the winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story.



Short fictionEdit


  • A Political Fable (1968)
  • Spanking the Maid (1982)
  • Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears (1987)
  • Dr. Chen's Amazing Adventure (1991)
  • Briar Rose (1996)
  • The Grand Hotels (of Joseph Cornell) (2002)
  • Stepmother (2004)
  • The Cat in the Hat for President (2018)[12]



Story Originally published in Year
"The Case of the Severed Hand" Harper's Magazine 2008
"White-Bread Jesus" Harper's Magazine 2008
"An Encounter" Fortnightly Review 2010
"The Old Man" Fortnightly Review 2011
"Going for a Beer" The New Yorker 2011
"Matinée" The New Yorker 2011
"The Goldilocks Variations" The American Reader 2013
"The Colonels Daughter" The New Yorker 2013
"The Frog Prince" The New Yorker 2014
"The Waitress" The New Yorker 2014
"The Crabapple Tree" The New Yorker 2015
"Invasion of the Martians" The New Yorker 2016
"The Hanging of the Schoolmarm" The New Yorker 2016
"The Boss" The New Yorker 2017
"Treatments" The New Yorker 2018
"The Enchanted Prince" Evergreen Review 2018
"Citizen Punch The New Yorker 2019


  • The Kid (1970)
  • Love Scene (1971)
  • Rip Awake (1972)
  • A Theological Position (1972)


  • A Night at the Movies or, You Must Remember This (1987) (themed anthology)
  • "The End of Books". The New York Times. June 21, 1992. (essay)

Awards and honorsEdit

William Faulkner, Brandeis University, American Academy of Arts and Letters, National Endowment of the Arts, Rea Lifetime Short Story, Rhode Island Governor's Arts, Pell, and Clifton Fadiman Awards, Rockefeller, Guggenheim, Lannan Foundation, and DAAD fellowships [14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Literary Arts". Brown University.
  2. ^ Evenson, Brian (2003). Understanding Robert Coover. University of South Carolina Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-1570034824.
  3. ^ Stengel, Wayne B. (2001). "Robert Coover". In Fallon, Erin; Feddersen, R.C.; Kurtzleben, James; Lee, Maurice A.; Rochette-Crawley, Susan (eds.). A Reader's Companion to the Short Story in English. Routledge. pp. 118–32. ISBN 1-57958-353-9.
  4. ^ "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" January 30, 1968, New York Post
  5. ^ "Unspeakable Practices V: Celebrating the Life and Work of Robert Coover". The Providence Phoenix. Archived from the original on 2014-04-07.
  6. ^ "Unspeakable Practices V: Festival Bios". Brown University.
  7. ^ "Unspeakable Practices V: Celebrating Robert Coover". Brown University.
  8. ^ Born María del Pilar Sans Mallafré
  9. ^ "Pilar Sans Coover".
  10. ^ "Contemporary Midwest Writers Series, Nos. 1,2 Author(s): Franklyn Alexander, Robert Bly, Robert Coover and Camille Blachowicz". The Great Lakes Review. 3 (1): 66–73. Summer 1976. JSTOR 41337445.
  11. ^ Current Biography Yearbook 1991, volume 52. H. W. Wilson. 1992. p. 159.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^

External linksEdit