Fat Books & Thin Women

Story Sundays: Robert Coover’s “Going for a Beer”

Story Sundays is a weekly feature at Fat Books & Thin Women. Always short stories, always ones available online for free.

One of my friends has been bugging me for months to read Robert Coover. Before that, the McSweeney’s store was bugging me to read Robert Coover. Then, finally, OhEmGillie posted up a list of short stories, including one by Robert Coover, last week.

Some writers hover on the edge of my consciousness for years before I read anything by them. The short story OhEmGillie linked to, “Going for a Beer”, has me convinced (at last) that I should follow the advice of my friend and McSweeney’s and seek out more of Coover’s work.

“Going for a Beer” is one of those rare short-short stories that does it all right. Coover gives us the sense of a life in the story, but it’s ours to fill out and complete. He grabs this idea of time rushing by, of life passing before any of us realize it’s on its way out, and centers his story on the life of his narrator, passing so quickly he hasn’t managed to figure where he’s been. In the story’s opening lines it’s nothing more than beers and beer-fueled flirtations that are rushing past, but then it’s marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, a life in its entirety.

He finds himself sitting in the neighborhood bar drinking a beer at about the same time that he began to think about going there for one. In fact, he has finished it. Perhaps he’ll have a second one, he thinks, as he downs it and asks for a third.

Read “Going for a Beer”

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Hmm. I read it more as alcohol being the reason that the life passes by so quickly. He seems to always find his way back to the bar.

I definitely agree with you that Coover does it just right: we get a sense of completeness without getting too much. I tend to prefer the moment illuminated style of short story, but this is equally effective.

Comment by Jennifer Marcketta

Oops, pressed “post comment” too soon! Coover’s story reminds me of “The Swimmer” by John Cheever, which I’ve been meaning to post about, in which a man’s life goes by without his noticing, though with an element of magical realism – it seems to pass while he swims across the county.

Comment by Jennifer Marcketta

that’s an interesting idea, i hadn’t thought of it before. and i’ll have to read that cheever story, he’s high on my list of short story writers to check out…i think i’ve only read one story by him, which is pretty shameful.

Comment by Ellen Rhudy

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