Picks and Pans Review: A Night at the Movies

updated 02/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Robert Coover

The weird, sometimes comic meditations on movies that make up this book are neither nonfiction articles nor short stories. The first is titled "The Phantom of the Movie Palace," a dreamy, cluttered paean to the grand theaters of the past and all the different kinds of films that were shown in such places. It also offers "Purviews of Cunning Abstractions." A cinematic funeral of camera cues and clich├ęs ("Cut to the open grave at the cemetery...") is called "After Lazarus." The Western gets sent up in "Shootout at Gentry's Junction," but just for fun the villainous bandit is the survivor, "his gold teeth capturing the last gleams of the dying red sun." In "You Must Remember This," Rick and Ilsa meet again in Casablanca, make love (described explicitly, to put it mildly) and recall their Paris affair: "his melancholy buttocks ... look gloomier than ever, swarthy and self-pitying, agape now with a kind of heroic sadness." Coover, a teacher at Brown University and author of The Public Burning and Gerald's Party, among other limit-testing novels, sometimes pushes too hard at a flimsy notion. The strain can be irritating. But he is also original and energetic, packing these odd pieces with images that trigger burst after burst of welcome, movie-going memories. (Linden Press, $16.95)

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