‘The Hanging Of The Schoolmarm’ by Robert Coover

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The Hanging Of The Schoolmarm by Robert Coover, 2016

The magic trick:

Switching from comic to pensive suddenly

Hmm. Why do I feel so unfulfilled at the end of these recent Coover shorts? His satire is loose and fast and potentially exciting. But it just seems to bore me. This story and another 2016 piece, “Invasion Of The Martians,” both feel like indictments of 2003 George W. Bush America. It would not surprise me in the slightest to learn that Coover wrote these, or started to write these, at least 10 years before publishing them.

We will however give him credit for a quick change of tone. The story flies by with comedy and absurdity, before switching gears suddenly at the end for a more pensive direction. We even get a fairly strange consideration of the timelessness of rocks. And that’s quite a trick on Coover’s part.

The selection:

“Rocks have more to say,” the schoolmarm says. “They express something profound about this place, this life, as I cannot. Language, even when grammatically correct, is simply inadequate. The situation is, in that sense, unspeakable. A landscape of rocks evokes a time before time, and the end-times as well, forcing us, while contemplating it, to live in all time at once, where words have nothing to attach themselves to.”

The sheriff nods, but he doesn’t know what the heck she’s talking about. He fits the noose around her neck.

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