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The prolific Coover (John's Wife, p. 155, etc.) has always been fascinated with the sheer playful possibilities of fiction, and with the many kinds of intentions that a seemingly straightforward narrative conceals. In this brief, dense work, he explores—in the contrasting voices of Sleeping Beauty and her resolute Prince as he fights his way to her bedchamber to awaken her from a deathly enchanted sleep—a remarkable number of interpretative possibilities lying just below the surface of the tale. The series of brief meditations by the two that compose the book suggest at various times that the story is really about the powers of the imagination (the two lovers-to-be have distinct ideas about what each represents to the other), about the masculine need to create a lovely, will-less female object of beauty, about the need of women to resist (by sleep, if nothing else) the kinds of male yearnings projected onto them, about the nature of desire itself ("You are that flame," Beauty is told, "flickering like a burning fever in the hearts of men, consuming them with desire, bewitching them with your radiant and mysterious allure"), or about the anarchic power of the storytelling drive ("The awful powers of enchantment") to take over a tale, to reassemble itself in a "dangerous and inviolate" form in defiance of an author's conscious intentions. The tale is also an amusing parody of literary scholarship, of its willingness to force polemical meanings onto a work of the imagination. All of this is rendered in a precise, vigorous, droll prose.
There's no doubt that Coover can do almost anything he wants. But his reluctance to finally settle for any culminating metaphor makes this unique work seem more of a collection of masterful, cerebral turns than a living, persuasive tale.
Posted October 17, 2009
This is a short book, 86 pages, but gives the impression that the idea was not long enough even for that. There are three figures, the prince trying to cut his way through the thorns, the witch, and the sleeping princess. The chapters alternate between the prince, who initially imagines his triumphant return after an easy victory, but is slowly overpowered by the growth of the thorns, and dies in the thicket, and the witch and princess. The witch tells the princess in her dreams stories of other princesses in the same situation, all of which end badly. Many of these deal with the princess being raped during her sleep, sometimes by a victorious prince (who then does not marry her), sometimes by a sequence of heroes, who use the sleeping princess as an entertaining waystation on the way to other adventures, by her father's household knights, once by a monkey. Several of the stories tell of the princess having children while she slept; in several stories, the princess or her children are killed by jealous wifes, and are either boiled in soup or roasted to be served to the prince.
There are many of these stories, each is only 1-2 pages long, and they are all approximately the same. Each motive occurs several times. I had expected more from this book.
Posted August 4, 2009
Posted August 16, 2002
I just read and finished the wonderful book called 'Briar Rose' and it's mainly about how a favorite grandchild grows up with her 'Gemma's' story of Briar Rose. On her death bed gemma tells becca 'I am Briar Rose'So becca goes on an amazing adventure to where her grandmother was almost executed by Nazi's in Poland.Becca discovers Gemma's true identity who really noone including becca doesn't know aboutWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.