Pinocchio in Venice

Robert Coover, Author
Robert Coover, Author Simon & Schuster $19.45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-64471-0
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
This farcical yarn about Professor Pine nut, an American art historian whose specialty is ``the motif of the ass in Venetian paintings of the life of Christ,'' strains unsuccessfully for the kind of metaphysical chuckle found in Barthelme or Calvino, but manages only to obfuscate the simple Italian tale upon which many of the scenes are based. Returning to Venice where he was crafted as a wooden puppet before life was breathed into him--as in Carlo Collodi's classic Pinocchio --Pinenut, now a weary and cynical academic, hopes literally to complete the last chapter of his life. Despite the narrative's marvelous opening--Pinenut arrives in a Venice made more beautiful and spectral by a snowstorm--Coover indulges in the kind of pretentious posturing and glib wisecracking that one imagines would play well only at a colossally obnoxious faculty party. It is hard to believe that the once uncontainably inventive Coover ( The Origin of the Brunists ; Pricksongs and Descants ) can be content with the facile wordplay and gratuitous obliquity exhibited here. As if completing a cycle made inevitable by self-absorption, Pinenut slowly returns to a wooden form, an occasion no reader is likely to grieve. (Jan.)
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