New Yorker fiction (Jul 25) – “Matinée”

The New Yorker has made the story available online only to subscribers.

Robert Coover offers up a pitch-perfect story of dizzying import. In an enormously kaleidoscopic way, the narrative flows through the romantic plot aspects of several movies and the lives of many individuals and couples. (I am not well-versed in movie plots, so this went over my head, but Coover, in an accompanying interview, talks briefly about these cinematic sources of inspiration.)

The film fills the housewife with such longing that when the man sitting beside her in the darkened movie house takes her hand to lead her away to a nearby hotel she just can’t seem to resist. … Or maybe this is why the housewife in the film went to that old cinema in the first place, though she’d never done anything like that before.

These movie/real-life encounters are woven throughout the story’s own twists and turns. This narrative is about blurred and blurry roles as they intersect with the poignant moments of life — perhaps “Inception” meets O. Henry?

“Down the street they’re showing ‘The Rescuer of Sad Maidens.’ Have you seen it?” “Is that the one that takes place aboard a doomed cruise ship?” “No, it’s a stories-within-stories kind of thing.” “I don’t think I’d like it. I’m more straightforward than that.” “Well, all right. A hotel room, then?”

There is a lot in here that evokes meditation of all things human — our needs and desires and motives; our identity and destiny; how alive are all three — past, present, and future — in a single moment.

“… Real life is more like a train that never stops to let you off. The days come and go, you get older, and then you die.” “But sometimes something happens. You bump into somebody in the aisle while leaving a movie and your life changes.”

This is a brilliantly written story; not to be missed. It’s perfect for a sunny afternoon and a shaded hammock and a gin and tonic.

Then, head out to the movies.


Robert Coover is the complex author of more than two dozen books ranging from The Origin of the Brunists (1966) to his latest novel, the mystery Noir (2010). His equally kaleidoscopic story, “Going for a Beer”, was published in The New Yorker in March.

(“South Haven at Night” from lapstrake / Tom Gill / cc by-nc-nd)


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