Pricksongs and Descants Summary

  • Last updated on July 15, 2023
Author: Robert Coover
Title: Pricksongs and Descants
Publish Date: 1969
Genre: Postmodern Fiction
Page Length: 328 pages


Pricksongs and Descants is a collection of short stories written by Robert Coover, first published in 1969. It is considered a classic work of postmodern fiction that explores various themes and narratives with a distinctive experimental style.

The collection consists of seventeen stories, each with its unique plot, characters, and themes. Coover's narratives often challenge traditional storytelling conventions, blurring the lines between reality and imagination.

In the first story, "The Babysitter," Coover introduces us to a young girl who occasionally babysits for the Tucker family. Unbeknownst to the Tuckers, the babysitter engages in a series of erotic adventures with multiple men during her time in their home. Here, Coover explores themes of secrecy, desire, and the complex nature of human relationships.

"The Magic Poker" is another notable story within the collection. It follows a group of men engaged in an intense poker game. As the game progresses, the lines between reality and fantasy become increasingly blurred. Coover explores the themes of competition, deception, and the power of storytelling itself.

Another noteworthy story is "The Elevator." It takes place in a surreal setting where a group of strangers is trapped in an elevator. As their hope for rescue diminishes, they begin to reveal their deepest secrets and desires. Coover explores themes of confinement, vulnerability, and the human condition under extreme circumstances.

In "The Hat Act," the story revolves around a magician who struggles with his magic tricks, particularly a disappearing hat act. As the story unfolds, Coover delves into themes of illusion, identity, and the pursuit of perfection.

"Jailbait" focuses on a young woman who engages in a taboo relationship with a much older man. Coover examines themes of power dynamics, forbidden desire, and the consequences of societal taboos.

Throughout Pricksongs and Descants, Coover consistently challenges traditional narrative structures and embraces a fragmented, nonlinear style of storytelling. His narratives often employ extensive wordplay, satire, and a subversion of reader expectations.

Furthermore, the collection as a whole tackles overarching themes like love, desire, power, and mortality. Coover's writing encourages readers to question traditional norms and explore the complexities of human experience.

Pricksongs and Descants has received critical acclaim for its ambitious experimental style and its thematic exploration of human relationships. It is widely regarded as an influential work of postmodern fiction that pushes the boundaries of storytelling and challenges readers to engage in a deeper understanding of the human condition.

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