By Louis Armand
As for anniversaries, THE END wins hands down. The Origin of the Brunists (1966) was Coover’s first book, The Public Burning (1977) his finest, & The Brunist Day of Wrath (2014) his most prescient—& if not the last, then of the last: of the proverbial End Times, testament of the proverbial Last Man, etc., yet still before its time, two years to be exact. Since when has humxnity turned to Literature to foretell the present (a present ever more apocalyptic even when so recently—or so it seems—deceased)? Fated from the outset to be more cinéma vérité than narrative fiction, more documentary than satire, The Brunist Day of Wrath announces the revenge of History upon those who have prematurely announced its demise—its “epilogue” might just as well be the tattooed likeness inked between Roger Stone’s scapulars, one recipient of a presidential pardon adorning the creeped-out flesh of another, like some emboldened genie of Eternal Recurrence that knows it’ll always come up trumps. Coover: “In the end, the nightmare evolves into real-time horror.” Probably The Brunist Day of Wrath was intended to be read backwards, like the Devil’s Bible: “The Kingdom has been decimated by the black magic of the Cretin Wizards with their cult of the Living Dead.” In the aftermath glow of revisionist soul searching this laughable History cannot simply be unwritten (backwards, forwards, anagrammatized, as says Marlowe’s Faust)—the genie will always have gotten out of the box no matter what spell the good & virtuous cast upon it. “Done’s done”: the only words in Literature ever likely to amount to anything. (“Don’t be so sure,” says Coover’s protagonist to the Antichrist—she knows what he’s done even if he no longer does: is Literature, then, the imp of History’s unknown knowns coming back to haunt it? The one being the doppelganger of the other, reflected through the prism of writing?) And so the carousel come full circle once more: the Brunist “spiritual guide & incorruptible holy man,” subjected to a perfidious witch hunt culminating in the public spectacle of His execution for crimes “against the law” itself—whose “thunderous grandstanding” & “inflammatory rhetoric” has channeled the Brunists’ insurrectionary “day of wrath” again the society of “nonbelievers”—like some hyperstitional literary effigy & most ancient archetype of all the Trumps, Giulianis, QAnon shamans & other assorted “useful idiots” summoned forth from the postmillennial collective unconscious to re-enact the half-cocked crucifixion of blushing Democracy upon Amerika’s Golgotha, in broad daylight no less. As if to say, that only by repeating does History properly come into view as having been a deadly farce all along. The tragedy is that anyone was ever duped into believing otherwise.
Note: This essay is part of Big Other Folio: Robert Coover.