The Frog Prince by Robert Coover, 2014
The magic trick:
Subverting the fundamental assumption in a familiar fairy tale
I remember reading Coover’s “The Babysitter” very early in this SSMT project and thinking, ‘Holy hell, I didn’t even know they made stories this good!’ I was blown away. But five years on now, I haven’t read another Coover story that I liked half as much. Maybe I’m reading the wrong stuff. But maybe he’s just not to my tastes.
“The Frog Prince” is fine. It’s certainly not bad or a waste of time. I just don’t really like it much. There is cruelness to Coover, a lurid quality that leaves a bad feeling. Gosh, I think he was like 80 when this was published, but there remains a sophomoric little boy vibe going on, relishing a little too much the chance to write about the princess “pinned, spread-eagled.” Not that you shouldn’t be able to write about such topics. I’m not suggesting that. I’m just saying I feel like Coover always seems to get his stories into sexually explicit territory with more than a hint of gratuity. And mostly I just don’t care about his point of view in these stories. Very offputting. Like I said, maybe I’m just reading the wrong titles.
Anyway, “The Frog Prince” as you might have guessed subverts a fairy tale trope. Here, as the story tells us near the end, we have a frog who turned into a prince but really just wanted to be a frog again.
I suppose that’s clever? Maybe it strikes one as funny. Maybe it’s even insightful and deep. Meh. I don’t know. It’s a way to write a story, though. And that’s quite a trick on Coover’s part.
She had discovered, when he was still an amphibian and they were just getting into the kissing game, that licking him would give her a stunning hallucinogenic high, and that was still true a metamorphosis later, but though she could get a buzz by licking the frog anywhere, she had to go looking for it on the prince, mostly in the nether parts. He wasn’t the cleanest of princes, but the trip was worth it. She was transported to another realm, a kind of fairy kingdom where she could have anything she desired: wealth, beauty, a spectacular wardrobe, a winning bridge hand, cream-filled chocolates with zero calories, and love whenever she wanted it, which was most of the time, even when she was doing other things, like presiding over a royal banquet or reviewing the palace guard. Just wham, bam, grand slam! Glorious! It all tended to vanish when the high wore off, but another lick and she was back again.
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