cover image A Child Again

A Child Again

Robert Coover, . . McSweeney's, $22 (276pp) ISBN 978-1-932416-22-0

Inverting and perverting popular folklore and fairy tales is a constant of Coover's prolific, pyrotechnic career, from Pricksongs & Descants in 1969 to last year's Stepmother . A dazzling writer, he's in tip-top if familiar form with this collection of 18 outlandishly skewed tales that veer from slapstick hilarity ("McDuff on the Mound," in which mighty Casey still strikes out) to macabre despair ("The Return of the Dark Children," in which the children paraded away by the Pied Piper come home, with the rats, to haunt their town). "Sir John Paper Returns to Honah-Lee" expands the universe of Peter, Paul and Mary's cryptic "Puff the Magic Dragon" song; "Alice in the Time of Jabberwock" posits a Wonderland even more absurd than the original; "The Invisible Man" leads a lonely interior life; and Little Red Riding Hood is menaced and mesmerized by her "Grandmother's Nose." Fans of Coover's riotous wordplay and fondness for the grotesque, the satirical, the scatological and the erotic will feel right at home with this collection that, though entertaining, is more of the splendid same rather than something new. "Shuffleable deck-of-cards story" that comes with the book not seen by PW . (Oct.)