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Noir
     

Noir

5.0 1
by Robert Coover
 

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With impeccable skill, Robert Coover, one of America's pioneering postmodernists, has turned the classic detective story inside-out. Here Coover is at the top of his form; and Noir is a true page-turner-wry, absurd, and desolate.
You are Philip M. Noir, Private Investigator. A mysterious young widow hires you to find her husband's killer-if he was killed. Then

Overview

With impeccable skill, Robert Coover, one of America's pioneering postmodernists, has turned the classic detective story inside-out. Here Coover is at the top of his form; and Noir is a true page-turner-wry, absurd, and desolate.
You are Philip M. Noir, Private Investigator. A mysterious young widow hires you to find her husband's killer-if he was killed. Then your client is killed and her body disappears-if she was your client. Your search for clues takes you through all levels of the city, from classy lounges to lowlife dives, from jazz bars to a rich sex kitten's bedroom, from yachts to the morgue. "The Case of the Vanishing Black Widow" unfolds over five days aboveground and three or four in smugglers' tunnels, though flashback and anecdote, and expands time into something much larger. You don't always get the joke, though most people think what's happening is pretty funny.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As his dazzling career continues to demonstrate, Mr. Coover is a one-man Big Bang of exploding creative force."-The New York Times

"At age 75, Coover is still a brilliant mythmaker, a potty-mouthed Svengali, and an evil technician of metaphors. He is among our language's most important inventors." -Ben Marcus

"Just like Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice last year, we are looking forward to this experimental re-write of the pulpy genre."-Jason Boog, Galleycat

"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." - Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

"The whole book is a bruise, punctuated by dead bodies, and it smarts. You wouldn't have wanted it any other way...You see that now, here, in Coover's shady strut through the 'damp, dark night.' Just as you saw it then, in Chandler and Hammett and Cain." — Miami Sun Post

"It's a great little book from him-lots of donuts and cross-dressing and satirizing/investigating/homaging the noir genre (easy to satirize, difficult to satirize well), this time in the second person, a weird but inspired choice that works really, really well." — Quarterly Conversation

"Robert Coover has made a name for himself writing fiction that treads hard and fast on the rules. Noir is no exception. It takes the motifs of the private eye novel and tips them on their sides...Coover cleverly manipulates the traditions of detective fiction and uses verbal wit to tell this challenging urban fairy tale. Engaging and starkly noir...a delightful exercise in dark humor." — The Strand Magazine

"The cinematic quality of this, with its layers of film metaphor, is no mere po-mo trope applied for its own sake. Film noir is about storytelling and so is this novel...Coover has always believed that narrative, however fractured, must still entertain. Noir will entertain some, as it did me, and irritate others who either don't see, or care for, the joke." — PopMatters

"The great Robert Coover turns in another cutting-edge novel... Existing somewhere between surrealism and Oulipo fiction, Noir examines the formal limits of the genre... any new Coover novel is an occasion to celebrate." — CrimeTime Blog

"[Coover's] use of a deliberately self-conscious, yet strangely endearing, second-person narration, draws you in so close you might take all the finely calibrated jokes personally...Rendered in a tone full of deadpan humor and crepuscular musings, Noir has a lot to admire...Coover [is] one of a dying breed of virtuosic stylists." — Brooklyn Rail

"With perhaps the wildest final twist of the year to aptly climax the insanity, fans who relish a satirical sleuthing spin will appreciate the escapades of Robert Coover's zany antihero Philip M. Noir with the M being a family thing." — Harriet Klausner, Mystery Gazette Blog

"Noir is very, very good...Coover's enthralling writing, great humor, and boundless creativity make for a really fun read...Noir is a fireworks display of great writing...If you read Noir only for the prose, you won't be disappointed...What starts as a straightforward detective novel takes a mind-bending turn past reality, into surreality and irreality...Noir's greatest strength is that it offers a treat, without fail, on every single page-from each new entry in the baroque cast of characters to the dynamite short shorts wrapped in loops of the narrative, and of course (most of all) the ever-present humor." — Chamber 4 Blog

"Robert Coover delves into absurdist noir territory with his newest novel. A comical hard-boiled narrative, Noir nods to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett with a postmodern, metaphysical twist...BEST FOR: Amateur sleuths and intellectually-inclined mystery buffs." — Florida International

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
In his 23rd work of fiction, old trickster Coover (A Child Again) is at it again, deconstructing the detective novel in a zany concoction that's equal parts Black Mask magazine and Krazy Kat comics. PI Noir accepts a job to find the murderer of a mysterious woman's husband, though he admits his client's story is "as full of holes as her black veil." The widow—whose name he never even bothers to learn—turns up dead—oops!—and the body count starts climbing. Noir is so thick he makes Sam Spade look like Einstein: his idea of detecting is to circle around, listening to people's stories and getting bopped on the head repeatedly. Nothing happens, a lot happens, and nothing's clear in this zany, language-besotted send-up of the hard-boiled PI story with a plot that's just an excuse for riffing. VERDICT Coover's hyperbolic style isn't everyone's cup of tea, but this is a funny book. Recommended for literary readers, especially those who enjoy Jerome Charyn's Isaac Sidel novels, Paul Auster's New York trilogy, and Jonathan Lethem's work. [Several other big novelists published crime fiction this year: Thomas Pynchon (Inherent Vice) and Dennis Johnson (Nobody Move).—Ed.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA\
Kirkus Reviews
A detective seeks the body of his murdered client in this absurdist take on the hard-boiled detective novel. Septuagenarian postmodernist Coover (A Child Again, 2005, etc.) presents his story in first-person perspective, and although he never reveals the main character's middle name, readers of Raymond Chandler can guess what the "M" in Phillip M. Noir stands for. The novel alludes frequently to the noirs of yesteryear. All the classic elements are here: the convoluted plot, the conflicted antihero pitted against pervasive rot and corruption, the tricks with point of view. The difference is that they're all filtered through Coover's warped lens. He expounds on his characters' exceedingly base behavior in explicit, sometimes excruciating detail, and seems to delight in doing so. In addition to the standard hard-boiled mystery sins of murder, rampant alcohol abuse and avarice, Coover's characters engage in incest, pedophilia and necrophilia, as well as seemingly nonstop (though otherwise comparatively tame) couplings of every conceivable kind. It's just a little too cartoonish to be taken seriously, but nestled among the filth and depravity are some deft and even oddly tender touches involving unlikely characters: the two Yakuza who engage in years-long conversation largely by tattooing a favorite moll; the girl who falls in love with whoever she's currently dancing with, whose death causes a Russian hit man to trade his rifle for a pool cue. While Coover's unnamed city is a cesspool of crime and corruption governed by nightmare logic, the absurd tone lets us know it's all in fun. Depraved and amusing.
Paul La Farge

Maybe it’s because I live in a part of the world where Garrison Keillor is on the radio ten times a week, but as I read Robert Coover’s new short novel Noir, I couldn’t help thinking of Guy Noir, the house detective on A Prairie Home Companion. Coover’s operator is named Philip M. Noir (we never learn what the M stands for), and although Phil is emphatically unsuitable for all audiences, if you set aside the necrophilia, the pedophilia and the cussing, he and Guy might be brothers. Both Noirs are men past their prime, post-heroic ironists who know, as Coover puts it, “plenty about getting sucked into stories that have already been told.”

Noir is one of those stories. The plot revolves around a rich and beautiful widow, an ex-client of Noir’s, who turns up dead, then disappears from the morgue; the prime suspect is the elusive Mr. Big, a/k/a Ignis Fatuus, or, as Phil Noir calls him, Fat Agnes. There’s a supporting cast of barmen, mean cops and helpful women: Flame the torch singer, Noir’s assistant Blanche, who loans her boss her underpants on more than one occasion; and the hapless Michiko, a prostitute who has become a human canvas where two yakuza bosses vie to top each other’s tattoos. The threads of plot that tie these people together are hopelessly tangled, and the narration skips around in time so much that chronology comes to seem like just another slap-happy witness, crying out my mother! My sister! more or less at random. “Connections,” the narrator thinks, or has “you” think — the story is told in the second person, a kind of Dim Lights, Big City — are “probably an illusion in such a fucked-up world as this.”

Coover, a brilliant reteller of tales (see his short-story collection A Child Again if you don’t believe me), isn’t the first literary novelist to deconstruct the noir, nor will he be the last. The detective story tempts every writer who’s ever tinkered with a plot, and of all the varieties of detective fiction noir has the best characters, the darkest settings, the most sex. What Coover brings to the faux-noir genre is a collection of seductive sentences about the seductive power of, well, sentences:

Your buffeted mind, its shell sapped, was incapable of pondering. It was more like an imageless dream about pain and the city. Almost imageless. You were being dragged through an old film projector. Your mazy crime-ridden gut was on view somewhere. Your sprocket holes were catching, tearing. Your head was caught in the mechanism.

The image is compelling, and not many people can write a phrase as tight as your mazy crime-ridden gut. The question you don’t want to ask is whether it amounts to more than that. Whether self-aware pastiche is at this point an old man’s game, like shuffleboard, played by people who’ve lost their appetite for more vigorous sport. To ask that question would be to peek behind the novel’s scrim of shadows, and maybe to see nothing at all, or only the projector’s wheels, still turning.

--Paul La Farge

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590206805
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
11/01/2011
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
838,483
Product dimensions:
5.35(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Robert Coover is widely regarded as one of America's most influential living writers, author of some fifteen groundbreaking books of fiction, including Pricksongs & Descants, The Public Burning, and most recently Ghost Town. Coover has for the past decade been teaching experimental courses in hypertext and multimedia narrative at Brown University. His 1992 essay on hypertext in the New York Times Book Review, "The End of Books," galvanized electronic literature fans around the world.

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Noir 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
As soon as the femme fatale entered his office private investigator Noir knew she was trouble and wanted to tell her to take a hike. However, she is beautiful and besides his unpaid office assistant who believes she is the boss Blanche would kill him if he rejected a paying customer. She explains she was a nurse to the dying wife of a wealthy man; when the spouse died she became wife number two. Now her husband is a murder victim and she hires Philip M. Noir to find his killer and protect her from his partner Mr. Big. As Noir investigates without even knowing his client's name, he fails to keep her safe from a killer. Stunned, he goes to the morgue to look at the corpse, but the body along with her clothing is missing. Noir searches for clues to who killed his paying customer as Blanche labels his work as "The Case of the Vanishing Black Widow". Receiving beatings and dishing out more, Noir works the crappy dives, the middle class dives and the affluent dives with his best progress occurring when he is knock out; when he is conscious Noir goes backwards. Not for everyone, this is a great insane investigative thriller as if Max Smart turned into a Noir private investigator working the mean streets, tunnels under the streets, and a few less populated by even rats locales. The jocular story line focuses on Noir's horrific sleuthing skills that lampoon the sub-genre starting with the detective who has no idea who his client is except she is loaded (money and boobs) nor who her late husband was. With perhaps the wildest final twist of the year to aptly climax the insanity, fans who relish a satirical sleuthing spin will appreciate the escapades of Robert Coover's zany antihero Philip M. Noir with the M being a family thing. Harriet Klausner