J.M. Coetzee Watch #4

Michael Gorra reviews Diary of a Bad Year on the "Truthdig" website and, in the process, provides a good background on Coetzee's other works. Of The Life and Times of Michael K.: "Coetzee has a deeply political mind, yet he prefers to use a moral language instead - to couch his book's questions not in terms of justice so as much as in those of guilt and shame and conscience. Most of his characters would be happy to avoid politics all together, to be left alone in their gardens, and the conflict between that desire and the demands of their world is reflected in the obliquity with which the author himself approaches such issues."
Of Disgrace: "...its picture of post-apartheid South Africa was far from celebratory. Indeed it suggested a world of spreading disorder, and the book was sharply criticized at home, a criticism given extra fuel by the book's international success."
And Diary of a Bad Year "is the most rigorously planned of Coetzee's novels, right down to the design of the page. Most of its bits are end-stopped, though there is an occasional missing period, a bit of grammatical drama, that tempts you to turn before you should. Yet it all feels as casual as a sweater tossed across one's shoulders, a book seemingly made out of nothing at all, and two central novels of the 20th century
came repeatedly to mind as I read, even across vast distances of style and temperament." And you'll have to read the piece to find out which novels they are.

Kirk Lapointe, in "The Gazette" out of Vancouver, finds the structure of Coetzee's latest novel rather intriguing: "It is hard to imagine a more challenging, intriguing and frustrating book in recent times than Diary of a Bad Year by two-time Booker Prize winner
J.M. Coetzee...[the novel] redesigns the shape of a novel: Coetzee presents three books in one -- or, to be more frank, three somewhat incomplete books in one, offered not sequentially but horizontally across each page." Lapointe sees Diary as a return to form for the author and "a clear sign that, at age 68, Coetzee is far from finished."

As one of the best new critics in the sf field, it's always interesting to read what Matthew Cheney has to say. And the first couple of sentences of his notes on Diary show he doesn't like to rush to judgment: "This is a book that will need to be reread. Until then, some notes." And he concludes that this "is an extraordinary book, and even if I think it offers less than some of Coetzee's best work, that is very light criticism: few living writers possess Coetzee's mix of intelligence and skill, and he is one of the few writers I can think of where I can't imagine ever calling any book his 'worst', even though, as with any writer, he has books that are better than others."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 11, 2008 12:14 PM.

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