Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Coetzee Addendum

So, today I was chatting to a South African woman who I pegged to be a literary type. I know that you will not be surprised to learn that I managed to insinuate Coetzee into the conversation.

(For some reason, we were talking about Oprah. Apparently, Oprah is HUGE in South Africa. Who knew? Her show comes on prime-time television, and my friend claims that she has helped heal the country's difficult race relations.)

Anyway . . . this woman said, and I quote, "Nobody in South Africa had every heard of Coetzee before he won that Nobel Prize." She backed up this mindboggling claim by saying that she had been part of a book group that included professors -- and that NONE of them had heard of this feted author, this man who has a good chance of taking home the coveted Booker of all Bookers!

(If you are just joining me, please see my post on the upcoming Booker of all Booker awards to learn why I am boring people with Coetzee reviews.)

Now Coetzee won his first Booker -- for Life & Times of Michael K -- in 1983. This award was given a full twenty years before his Nobel Prize! I don't get it.

V.S. Naipaul (another Booker and Nobel winner) once said of his own work: "I am the kind of writer that people think other people are reading." I myself am the kind of person who owns several Naipaul novels, but hasn't read any of them. Is it possible that Coetzee is this kind of author, too?

Anecdotal research tells me that Coetzee is the reclusive type of writer -- not given to schmoozing or self-promotional activities. (In other words, he is unlikely to appear on the Oprah show -- touting his latest book.) Then if you add in his typically grim subject matter, his controversial place of origin, and a certain "highmindedness" shall we say . . . well, it just doesn't add up to "good beach read" or "Airport bestseller," does it? But to be entirely unknown . . . I just don't get it.

The novel that Coetzee wrote after Disgrace is titled Elizabeth Costello. The protagonist is a woman this time, which is atypical of the Coetzee novel. (Will she be a counterpart, or foil, to Professor David Lurie?) I can't wait to read it! And I am going to read it . . . as soon as I finish The Blind Assassin, and The Life & Times of Michael K, and my other Booker books, and the upcoming Booker shortlist, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane . . .

10 comments:

Brave Sir Robin said...

Wonderful to see the Beauty Queen on the list.

Cloud Atlas is becoming very intriguing. I see what he is doing, as I am into "story three".

I spent my lunch reading today, so that is a sign I'm really enjoying it.

Bee said...

Thumbs up to lunch-time reading!

I have big plans to get in bed early and cozy up to Atwood.

Will you do a guest review on Cloud Atlas?

Brave Sir Robin said...

Will you do a guest review on Cloud Atlas?


I'd be honored!!

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Coetzee is sounding more and more interesting. I've added Disgrace to my to-read list, which is growing longer by the minute. I may give up sleeping altogether...

Bee said...

I never want to get up, when I'm sleeping and the alarm goes off . . .

and I never want to go to bed, when there are books to read and emails to write and bloggers to blog with . . .

Anne said...

First: I just picked up Disgrace at the bookstore today. I'm eager to start it right now, but I want to get through The Blind Assassin and The English Patient first!

BSR - I'm glad you're getting into Cloud Atlas! The first story is slow, but it picks up as he goes along. I look forward to reading your guest review!!

Bee said...

Anne,

I started Blind Assassin last night, and it's not exactly "short" is it! Disgrace is a pretty quick read -- and very easy to get into.

Sarah Laurence Blog said...

I loved Cloud Atlas too, but Mitchell's Black Swan Green was even better. I've reviewed both without giving anything away. Looks like you have a good reading list ahead of you. I won't read your review as I hate spoilers - thanks for the warning. For the record, I'd be happy to go on Oprah! She's done a great job getting people reading again.

Bee said...

Sarah,

Yes, Jonathan Franzen and Coetzee are probably the only two authors in the world who don't want a little Oprah "bump."

Next time I review I won't share any spoilers . . . as that is obviously the consensus preference. (I honestly don't care if some of the plot is given away. But that is obviously just me.)

Anne said...

It's not at all! I hope I can finish it before May rolls around....

Black Swan Green is stellar, and a very quick read. I can't wait until Mitchell's next book comes out.