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Pinocchio in Venice

3.30  ·  Rating details ·  233 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Internationally renowned author Robert Coover returns with a major new novel set in Venice and featuring one of its most famous citizens, Pinocchio. The result is a brilliant philosophical discourse on what it means to be human; a hilarious, bawdy adventure; and a fitting tribute to the history, grandeur, and decay of Venice itself.
Paperback, 330 pages
Published January 10th 1997 by Grove Press (first published 1991)
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3.30  · 
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 ·  233 ratings  ·  33 reviews


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Brian
Sep 09, 2015 rated it liked it
I cannot remember the last piece of fiction I’ve read that had required reading as a prerequisite. Yes, it is possible to read this work of Coover without first having read A Death in Venice and Collodi’s Pinocchio, but the reader would unfortunately miss out on entirely too many jokes and plot points divined from those works. The more recent the reading of those two, the better.

I just did a search on the bizarro genre of fiction and it looks like the form is credited to having begun in 1999. I
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Coover's Pinocchio is yet another of Coover's novels which the weak of heart and the easily queezey ought to avoid. It's not the excessive poop stuff or the sex stuff ;; we all have to put up with that stuff on a daily basis, like breathing. And it's not really the dimensionality of characterization -- another author may have done something different, like, portray a fully-fleshed=out 3D human Pinocchio slowly losing a dimension as his flesh falls and he becomes wooden once again, perhaps traili ...more
Jonathan
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
If the idea of Pini as a mother-fucker (for who can the Blue-haired fairy be but mother and lover?) with his nose as penis (watch how it grows!) makes you laugh, you will enjoy this a great deal. If, however, you are not fond of puns, phallus-jokes and lots and lots of shit-jokes, then this is probably not for you.

I personally found it a lot of fun, and wonderfully well written, with some great riffs on the nature of self. But, ultimately, there is nothing here which will really "stay with me".
...more
Amber Treadway
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Dense, raunchy, brutal, and ultimately transcendent continuation of the Pinocchio fairy tale, in which the aging professor finds his human flesh rotting away, revealing the wood within. Brilliant religious satire and one of the best books I've ever read.
Stella
May 30, 2011 rated it liked it
I love the idea behind this book. I love the whole carnivalesque atmosphere and the ludic mania that Coover creates like no one else. My first encounter with Coover's writing was actually "A Political Fable" in which The Cat in the Hat runs for President, in which the narrative similarly disintegrates as the Rebelaisian energy reaches its peak. In Pinocchio in Venice, it's not only the narrative that disintegrates but Pinocchio's "I-ness" as his limbs fall off and he starts turning back into a w ...more
James
Nov 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Language Nerds
I didn't enjoy this book as much as I hoped I would but a big part of it is because the language was so dense and the movement so metaphysical that I found myself having to go back because I suddenly wasn't sure what I had been reading for the past five pages. This is one of those books where every word has importance and everything is a symbol for something else, and it is truly masterfully written, but went right over my head, much as I hate to admit it.

The story follows a decrepitly aged Pino
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John
Apr 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Pinocchio gets his wish and becomes a real boy. Aaaahhhh! But does he live happily ever after?

Sadly life is no fairy tale... nor is this book.

In the book Pinocchio returns to Italy and meets up with his old friends - and enemies!

Coover is a very imaginative story teller; skilful use of language create grotesque characters and nightmarish situations.

Pinocchio - the human - gets to deal with all the crap the rest of us have to manage - growing old, failures in relationships, the loss of mental a
...more
Jim
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read. Coover can always be counted on that. PostModern Disney. Meta Fairy Tale! Very witty, but, once again, Coover can be counted on for that. "Difficult" but beautiful. He writes books that you read less for the plot, then for the sheer beauty of the writing. This was Ribald, (Hell,downright obscene!) Scatological, and Mystic all wrapped up in one package. I will read more Coover, (I also have Lucky Pierre, and Noir to read) but not for a while. I think need a complete change ...more
Rosemary Biggio
May 31, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is more artifice than art, a fictional equivalent of a Mapplethrope photo. This novel is the ribald on steroids. The book does not justify the reader’s energy output, “love’s labour’s lost”. Even the most avid bibliophile will find the task of reading the novel from start to finish daunting. If you like magical realism but have little taste for the vulgar, Angela Carter’s works are a better choice.

Marc
Probably best enjoyed by a reader quite familiar with the original Pinocchio story since this is a carnivalesque riff whereby the grown human Pinocchio returns to Venice and puppethood. His nose reveals itself as a substitute phallus and various torture and debauchery ensues as he faces his own mortality and learns the limits of friendship and aesthetics. Pretty typical Coover meta-fiction but it just wasn't working for me.
Michelle
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: run-on sentences, Freud, bowel movements
Shelves: bookclub
Sure, there were peeks of whimsy/laugh-out-loud moments in this novel, but the constant anal/womb/impotence/pinocchio's-nose-is actually-his-penis slapstick became tiring and predictable. Maybe this marks the end of an interest in layered language, jumbled narrative and self-consciousness, but I felt like I wanted to walk in a straight line for days after.
Jim
May 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: worst-books-ever
This book. . .

I read this book cover to cover for one reason and one reason only: So I could say it was the worst book I'd ever read. I mean, can you really physically throw a book in the garbage after 150 pages and say you've read it? Not if it's 330 pages. . . which this is.

So. . . worst book I ever read!
Terry
I had to set this one aside. In was charmed by the concept, but Coover's writing style, at least for this book, left me frustrated. Too much barnstorming with the language. too dense for me! or maybe I'm too dense for it!
Peter
Mar 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is a book about poo.
Rick
Oct 26, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: wood carvers
love your puppet
but don't coddle him
Jason
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, yeah, I'm kinda on this escalating Robert Coover completist kick. While I have been a long time admirer, I had maintained for a long time a habit of only reading his shorter things. I was lazy that way. Or if not lazy, merely "particularly disposed." So I have spent a healthy portion of the year heretofore digging into the bigger piles. It has been paradigm-shiftingly rewarding. (I should say that I find JOHN'S WIFE particularly to be one of the great unsung American literary masterpieces.) ...more
Alan Newman
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Who better to ask the question “what does it mean to be human?” than Pinocchio. When we meet him he is an ancient professor who wins the Nobel prize for his exploration of “I-ness”. He returns to his home town Venice at Carnival, a modern tourist trap where nothing and no one is what it seems. His sojourn there is surreal, Rabelasian, and Joycean— Pinocchio is searching for his mother, the Blue Fairy, loses everything and almost everyone dear to him. In the epiphanic end, Mom takes the blame. Li ...more
B
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: borrowed
Coover gets 4 or 5 stars for "Is this the work of a genius thinking smart things?"

But I flat-out did not like it.

The characters speak in these long rambles that contain all sorts of puns. Most of the time the things that happen are too inexplicable to feel attached to. And it seems like the status quo just keeps resetting at the end of every chapter.

What I did understand was largely about poop and sex. And it wasn't clear why the author wanted to spend so much time there except that it's humor
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Sean
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Absolutely bizarre, and one I can't quite wrap my head around. As much as I feel I've learned about Venice-- Coover manages to capture the spirit of the city, or at least make you feel like you've glimpsed into the soul of some presentation of the city, as much as the puppet himself. It's slapstick humor (the innuendo is very fitting for this book) and bizarrely highbrow. And I don't know if I'll ever understand it fully. Make sure you know your Italian culture, or you may end up scrolling endle ...more
Mary
May 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
After reading five chapters, I closed the book. Not a writing style or genre that appeals to me.
Dan
Jun 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Coover comments on the contemporary moment by representing Pinocchio one hundred years later--in the 1990s. By this time, he's an aged professor, an established academic, and in declining health. Coover's setting the action in Venice is not only meant as an allusion to Thomas Mann's Death in Venice; it is also a device to bring Pinocchio back into contact with many of the characters against whom he was represented in Carlo Collodi's story. In Coover's novel Pinocchio's meetings with these charac ...more
Kevin Faulkner
As good as when first read 20 years ago. Coover has made a real development to the Pinocchio story in so many ways. Setting the 'wooden head' as an ageing academic who returns to Italy, Venice specifically, the novel is both rude and a debate upon the human condition. The inner psychology of Pinocchio really comes alive in Coover's extraordinary. Don't know why this book is not better known than it is
Harry
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book had great reviews but I found it overly wordy, gaudy, pretentious, and full of obscure references. There must be readers that enjoys this and marvel at the writer's elaborate metaphors, puns, and scatological humor. I like the artful use of language and long sentences (David Foster Wallace, Salman Rushdie) but it doesn't have to be hard to read and pointless.
Leah
Mar 12, 2009 rated it liked it
This is maybe the most visceral book I've ever read. The language is extremely sensory. There are some obscenely disgusting passages that I had to skip over. A good read for lovers of the classic Pinocchio tale's creepier elements - this extends them to the furthest extreme.
Erik Wyse
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
An imaginative reworking of the classic Pinocchio tale, unfolding in a series of bawdy misadventures through Venice. The setup allows Coover to run wild with his dense and colorful prose, as darkly humorous and sexually charged as always.
David
Sep 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Read this some years ago. Solid Coover re-invention of the Pinocchio narrative. Good read. Recommended.
Ellen
Jan 27, 2013 rated it did not like it
Normally I really like books that take a known character/tale and expand on it but this one was not for me.
Matt
Sep 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Really clever, pretty funny, not very satisfying. You have to have read The Adventures of Pinocchio pretty recently to get most of it. Probably worth reading, I guess.
Kristen
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Odd, but pretty good.
Ed
Jun 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A tour de force. I loved it. Bizarre, dirty, incredible, fascinating, witty...many adjectives apply. [I've tried a few of Coover's other novels, but this is the only one that WOWs me.]
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Robert Coover's F...: 1991 -- Pinocchio in Venice 11 24 Dec 27, 2015 09:37AM  

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Born Robert Lowell Coover in Charles City, Iowa, Coover moved with his family early in his life to Herrin, Illinois, where his father was the managing editor for the Herrin Daily Journal. Emulating his father, Coover edited and wrote for various school newspapers under the nom-de-plume “Scoop.” He was also his high-school class president, a school band member, and an enthusiastic supporter of the ...more