‘Going For A Beer’ by Robert Coover

Coover, Robert 2011

Going For A Beer by Robert Coover, 2011

The magic trick:

Smashing a lifetime into a single paragraph

This is Robert Coover, so we shouldn’t expect the normal rules of the space-time continuum to apply. Still, he never fails to jolt with his uncanny ability to distort chronology and reality.

In “Going For A Beer,” we get the story of a man’s life, from dating to marriage to parenthood to death. The quick-firing plot points, often joined as non-sequiturs, recreate the jumble of memories one finds later in life, looking back (especially where alcohol is involved). The protagonist forgets crucial information but remembers comparatively pointless details, such as the many carnival toys his date has won. It’s disjointed, funny, sad, and occasionally off-putting. So… basically just like life. And that’s quite a trick on Coover’s part.

The selection:

During the ceremony, they both carry Kewpie dolls that probably have some barely hidden significance, and indeed do. The child she bears him, his or another’s, reminds him, as if he needed reminding, that time is fast moving on. He has responsibilities now and he decides to check whether he still has the job that he had when he first met her. He does. His absence, if he has been absent, is not remarked on, but he is not congratulated on his marriage, either, no doubt because—it comes back to him now—before he met his wife he was engaged to one of his colleagues and their co-workers had already thrown them an engagement party, so they must resent the money they spent on gifts.


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