‘The Babysitter’ by Robert Coover

In these days of digital radio perhaps you are nostalgic for the times when, caught between frequencies, you could simultaneously hear opera and a cricket commentary. If you hanker after simultaneous multiplicity you could do worse than read ‘The Babysitter’, which is probably the most anthologised story I have chosen. One evening a teenage girl looks after the children of Harry and Dolly Tucker, a couple who are heading out to a party. But there are multiple lines, alternatives and versions. What’s a happening? What’s an imagining? Which of the various narratives can co-exist? Exhausting, because no consideration of Coover’s story can be exhaustive.

From Pricksongs and Descants, 1969, and now available as a Penguin Modern Classic, 2011. The story is also available from Penguin as a digital single and in a Modern Classics mini)