Saturday, May 19, 2012

Short-Story Month 2012: Day 19, The Babysitter by Robert Coover

Photograph of payphone with handset facing out
Photograph by Kelly Teague,
Used under CC license
"She arrives at 7:40, ten minutes late, but the children, Jimmy and Bitsy, are eating supper, and their parents are not ready to go yet.   From other rooms come the sounds of a baby screaming, water running,  a television musical (no words: probably a dance number--patterns of gliding figures come to mind)." 

It's Day 19 of National Short-Story month.  Today's selection is Robert Coover's story, "The Babysitter" from his collection Pricksongs & Descants (1969) .  If the story were a piano piece, it would be likely subtitled Variations on a Theme.

Like the composer who shows his or her skill by performing a piece in varying styles, Coover demonstrates his skill as a storyteller-writer in "The Babysitter" by creating a larger experience of plot through weaving (or unweaving) the possibilities that arise from the well-known urban legend typically known as The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs, its several variants, and the imaginative mind-space of the characters.  


Coover won the 1987 Rea award, and the jury had this to say of his work:

"For taking the dross of the ordinary and spinning it into the treasure of myth Robert Coover [is] a writer who has managed, willfully and even perversely, to remain his own man while offering his generous vision and versions of America."

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