Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On "The Brother" by Robert Coover (13:36 minutes) *****

My favorite section from Coover's "Seven Exemplary Fictions" involves a retelling of the story of Noah's flood. In this case, a brother has been hired to help Noah build the boat. He works on it until it is done, thinking Noah mostly just a crazy man. Noah gives no real explanation for his actions, so when the brother finds that it is beginning to rain and that everything is disappearing under water, there's a rather grim pity we feel for him.

I could not help but think of the biblical story itself. Noah is regarded as a prophet in the scriptures, so my understanding is that his boat building was accompanied by warnings to those around and by preaching. The real tragedy in Coover's tale is that the brother is clueless--that there is no warning about what is about to happen. But then I think of how we are today surrounded by "prophets" who name an end date for the world that comes and goes. I have to think that one some level, people in Noah's day would have had a similar issue. Was Noah merely one of many predicting the world's end? Which person do we listen to, or should we just ignor them all? Is a proliferation of warnings, many of them false, any better than no warning at all? We live in a sad and pitiable world.

You can listen to Coover himself read the story here.

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