J.M. Coetzee Watch #5

Reviews of Diary of a Bad Year

William Deresiewicz, in "The Nation", is impressed with the novel on a number of levels. "There are surprising parallels here with Philip Roth's latest novel. Exit Ghost also gives us a love triangle of sapless old writer, beautiful temptress and snorting young bull. Both books announce an exhaustion with the making of fiction, at least on the part of their protagonists. Both allude, in connection with questions of finality, to Hamlet, Roth's novel in its title, Coetzee's in its last lines. Together, the two books point to larger parallels between their authors' work. Both writers have devoted much attention, especially of late, to the experience of age. The literature of old age is a slender one before the nineteenth century, even before the twentieth. King Lear, Oedipus at Colonus and a few other works stand against the vast literatures of youth and adulthood. But now that writers are living longer and staying stronger, we seem to be entering a golden age of the literature of age, and Roth and Coetzee are perhaps its greatest exponents."

In "The Kansas City Star" Joseph Peschel isn't quite so sure: "Despite its weaknesses, Diary is a thought-provoking book, but it seems more of an experiment, like Coetzee's 2003 Elizabeth Costello, that tries to meld essay and fiction. I prefer his more traditional narrative, 1987's Foe."

On his "Fire When Ready" weblog, Bob Mustin realises the difficulty of reading this book but finds a lot to like anyway. "I've always considered Coetzee an adventurous novelist, adventurous in subject matter and style. In Diary Of A Bad Year, he proves no less adventurous as he enters his eighth decade. The book is largely an unwinding series of opinions on nearly everything in modern life, from George Bush to his new homeland of Australia. Each page begins with such an opinion, followed by a narrative of his 'story,' which concerns Coetzee himself as he writes the book."

Review by Coetzee:

Coetzee reviews Lost Paradise by Cees Nooteboom, translated from the Dutch by Susan Massotty: "The chief trouble with Nooteboom's Lost Paradise is that it is hard to reconcile the skeptical, relativistic spirit of the book as a whole, particularly its prologue and epilogue, with the story of the girl from Brazil who exorcises her demon by absorbing traditional Aboriginal beliefs. It is also hard to make sense of her grounds for excluding the troubled Dutchman from the paradise he seeks in her arms, namely that angels cannot consort with human beings. The gods and goddesses of Greece were not shy of bestowing their favors on mortals. Why should angels be different?"

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 4, 2008 12:02 PM.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot: Update 1 was the previous entry in this blog.

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