Waxing Press

Book Review: The Public Burning by Robert Coover

Ian Wissman

It is with some consternatin that I do believe the Holy Ghost Himself, one Mr. Sam Slick, Uncle Sammy, plug-hatted prometheus is the butt-kickin’, freedom tarin' ethos of these here YOU-nited States, a tulpa of our ancestors’ devisin’ that we keep churrnin’ up with our idealisms and religionisms and tribality, and that in so en-body-in' that old SPIRIT of America as a homunculus, Mr. Coover here, the confabulator-in-chief of this so-called The Pubic Burning—erm, pubLIC!—has recast the electric glow of our collective his-story! Reckon to re-consile that manipYOUlatif basterd as your fore-pappy, a deity clad in the red white and ba-lue—stars and bars and Ford motorcars—the old pap an interminable windsack full of a freedom-spewin' fervor that ain’t listenin' when you tell’em not to be mixin the bourbon with the wine, and still have to recumpensate the en-TIRE globe for all that liberatin’ vomit steamin' up in a froth—accidental or on purrpuss. Whether it be to quenchin’ and chokin’ the flames of commyounauseum er those newfangled sueeside bommers in today’s parlants, yer darn-tootin it’s the same ol’ enemy o’ Ol’ Glory herself, the god fersakin Phantom. It is, without doubt or lack of dooty, that Sam Slick, the ringmastermind, the king corporal, must rise from the vomit to kick The Phantom in his butt and call him macaroonie, and maybe do a few other things to it too. If yer catch the innuitdo. Our Cuntry sure has wrought forth fire and fury, brimstone and brine, bare-assed and kicked ass with a take all prisners approach that entrenches the American Dreamcicle as the end-all-be-all rejoinder against the kitty-caterwallin’ of the uprisin’s uprisin ‘round this here bloo orb orbitin' the heel-ee-ohs, but really orbitin' ‘round the stars claddin’ Uncle Sam’s taint.

Coover’s reenactin’ of the tale of the Rosenbergs, those old, dirty Atom Spies, the filthy peddlars of America’s secretions to The Phantom’s fattest friend, encandesces the pallor and paltry pittance of hoo-manity that drips from the YOU-ESS guv’mint like thick tar from a tree branch—no room in the belly for any of the so-called reason and justice and empathy when there’s as bigger point to be singed into the pubic—erm, pubLIC!—mind, rilin’em up against the enemies of our freedum and our idealism. This re-imaginin’ by 5-star palavator general Coover is a rough-and-tumble, fun-as-hail romp thru the imagined-yet-unproven-to-exist conshints of Tricky Ding-Dong-Ditch-Dick Nixun, castin' him as a symapath, a chess piece on the checkerboard of uh-vuncular Sam, a piece of meat doin’ the biddin’s demanded by the fight agenst The Phantom. A fight that continyous engorgin’ with toomescents, penetratin new tear-itories and lavatories but dressed up in a pretty new dress to keep the pubic—erm, the pubLIC!—all fired up in the name of the stars and bars, flappin’ in the free-est wind that blows liberty’n’justice thru the lands, like the flatulence from Sammy Slick’s ass.

Read it.

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