Going for a Beer. A short story.
March 9, 2011 10:05 PM   Subscribe

Going for a Beer. A short story.
posted by shivohum (11 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
That was bleak and beautiful, and the pacing was vrooooooom!
posted by heyho at 10:12 PM on March 9, 2011

And it was printed four days from now, which is fitting.
posted by heyho at 10:15 PM on March 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

Man, I had a month like that one weekend. At least I think I did.
posted by spacewrench at 10:40 PM on March 9, 2011

Oh god. This is a prime example of an expression of an obscure emotion (which is somewhat like loneliness but not quite) which I for some reason find really horrifying. Does anybody else feel this?
posted by solarion at 11:40 PM on March 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

Preview failed me :( Sorry, reposting with the proper blockquoting. Can a mod delete my above comment? It puts my words into Coover's mouth, which I do not dare to do. Thanks.

Awesome. Robert Coover is nearing 80. And yet, the guy is probably in the vanguard in contemporary hypertext fiction--which in some ways this story is attempting to emulate:
"Hypertext" is not a system but a generic term, coined a quarter of a century ago by a computer populist named Ted Nelson to describe the writing done in the nonlinear or nonsequential space made possible by the computer. Moreover, unlike print text, hypertext provides multiple paths between text segments, now often called "lexias" in a borrowing from the pre-hypertextual but prescient Roland Barthes. With its webs of linked lexias, its networks of alternate routes (as opposed to print's fixed unidirectional page-turning) hypertext presents a radically divergent technology, interactive and polyvocal, favoring a plurality of discourses over definitive utterance and freeing the reader from domination by the author.
Though obviously you can't exactly free the reader from authorial control in a traditional printed magazine--there are no hyperlinks to physically click and explore at your leisure, the author is still dictating the experience to a receiver--the story still manages to have some of the recursive, non-linear qualities in hypertext fiction. And the way he can evoke this stuff in a traditional short story is pretty sweet. With each new sentence, you're mentally leaping into new branches of stories, building your own new experience before coming back to the main thread, which is now radically different than when you left it. Time in the story doesn't matter--it's mocked, questioned, and completely inconsequential. Everything's collapsed into one moment--the moment you are reading and experiencing the story, and you realize the possibilities of the characters are infinite, and what's laid out in front of you is trivial--endless other branches are left unsaid. Borges is best known for doing this kind of stuff, and I'm sure plenty of other young, post-modern writers are carrying the torch. But the fact that Coover still has so much to say about what we think is a kid's game--wonderful. Lesson: do not discount older folks when it comes to technology matters, especially when they cross-pollinate with philosophy/humanities/arts.

Anyway, to close, here's a lovely quote by Carolyn Guyer and Martha Petry (also from Coover's 1992 (!) Times essay) which spells out a lot better some of the objectives of what Coover may or may not be trying to achieve in the story:
"This is a new kind of fiction, and a new kind of reading. The form of the text is rhythmic, looping on itself in patterns and layers that gradually accrete meaning, just as the passage of time and events does in one's lifetime. Trying the textlinks embedded within the work will bring the narrative together in new configurations, fluid constellations formed by the path of your interest. The difference between reading hyperfiction and reading traditional printed fiction may be the difference between sailing the islands and standing on the dock watching the sea. One is not necessarily better than the other."
posted by jng at 11:42 PM on March 9, 2011 [8 favorites]

jng, thanks for the quotes. It helped me to get enough distance from that story to process it well enough to realize that I liked the style, that it reminded me of villanelles and sestinas, rather than just stare blankly at the wall in utter despair.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:32 AM on March 10, 2011

That was great!
posted by caddis at 4:18 AM on March 10, 2011

Reminds me of this, for various reasons. More gimlets, less beer, of course.
posted by chavenet at 4:39 AM on March 10, 2011

Indeed, solarion. Living a life without being able to ever really pay attention to it is such a haunting concept.

Time to meditate.
posted by Jonathan Harford at 7:20 AM on March 10, 2011

solarion: "Oh god. This is a prime example of an expression of an obscure emotion (which is somewhat like loneliness but not quite) which I for some reason find really horrifying. Does anybody else feel this"

Yeah, it's terrifying. I'm 36, and keep having the feeling that I'm not really making any decisions - that life is just happening around me and I'm just observing it in the third person from a POV camera.
posted by notsnot at 7:32 AM on March 10, 2011

It's as though George Saunders took uppers.
posted by docpops at 7:41 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

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