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View Diary: Contemporary Fiction Views: J. M. Coetzee & the Pursuit of Happiness (59 comments)

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  •  I've Read Disgrace and Other Books (8+ / 0-)

    by Coetzee.  Disgrace was my first.  I think of Coetzee as an ascetic-hermit from another age, burdened by such an introverted personality that he appears personality-less.  And I think he loves animals deeply.

    I've heard him read and (lo!) speak at the Miami Book Fair.  He's an excellent reader, very tall, thin, quiet-voiced, speaking his text slowly, clearly, and with an accent that falls softly on an American ear.  He gives considered answers to questions; non-spontaneous best describes them.  He's also circumspect -- a quality I admire -- and doesn't feel it necessary to "let it all hang out" like Amy Tan, say.

    The tone of his books reflect the man, I think; Coetzee seems to "think" his books and the pages of them are the outpourings of his mind which doesn't hesitate to be cerebral in its examination of race, injustice, and human behavior.  He crafts sentences that are spare yet vivid, some might say Hemingwayesque.  Somewhere I remember noting that Per Petterson's writing and treatment of themes in his books reminded me of Coetzee.  Astonishing since they are literally  (near) Polar opposites.  However, Petterson seems to write the same novel over again while Coetzee never does.

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    by Limelite on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 06:20:36 PM PST

    •  Thank you for giving us a view of Coetzee as a man (7+ / 0-)

      I enjoy your comment, Limelite. Like Coetzee, you're always thoughtful and precise with words.

      Introverted fits him; also very self-aware. To return to that first quote I mentioned by a character in his own Summertime:

      "In general, I would say that his work lacks ambition. The control of the elements is too tight. Nowhere do you get a feeling of a writer deforming his medium in order to say what has never been said before, which is to me the mark of great writing. Too cool, too neat, I would say. Too easy. Too lacking in passion."
      The "Too cool, too neat" and "control of the elements is too tight" may all be true. The rest, I think, is a playing against himself. Coetzee is all about ambition, his writing is strenuously "deforming his medium in order to say what has never been said before". He's not "Too easy", but he may be too hard. It wouldn't surprise me if he never writes a bestseller. Nor would it surprise me if he influences many other writers.

      I admire circumspect, though it doesn't come naturally to me. But I did live ten years in England, so I can see how American public discourse often gushes too much. I respect those who think first, and only say what they really mean.

      I don't know Petterson yet.

      I would like to read Coetzee write about animals, or about books he loves passionately. I would like to read something that, for Coetzee, would appear lush.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 07:06:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Limelite, you compared Coetzee to (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, shari, Avila, Limelite

      a Scandinavian writer (I'm guessing--I don't know Petterson), and it reminded me that the beauty of Coetzee's work is a Scandinavian spareness.

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