Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Late last year I read the novel Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee." It was one of the most visceral reading experiences I've had. My body ached as I read it. The prose was perfectly sparse. In fact, it was gorgeously written. I had wanted to read the book for years, but never did. Now I just finished Elizabeth Costello. For two days I was mesmerized by his ability to play with narrative forms. In the first chapter, titled Realism, he, the narrator, skips to parts of the story that only carry the novel forward. Of course that's what a good narrator does, but Coetzee has the narrator actually tell the reader, "I'm skipping ahead because nothing really happens here." I paraphrase, but it was surreal. The book itself follows the title charcter, Elizabeth Costello, as she accepts an award in Atlanta, gives speeches aboard cruises and takes part in a series of lectures. There are definitely writers, women especially, but possibly even men, that write in a woman's voice better than Coetzee. But no man that I've read has written such a strong female character. Forceful, unforgiving, brilliant, sexual. To me, she was everything women like Isabel Archer are not. Elizabeth Costello was everything I look for in full-bodied literary figures. She won't leave the reader's head for awhile if ever.
Coetzee reportedly once went to a party and didn't say a singe word all night. I'm glad he saves his best words for his novels.
Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude
Shelby Foote's Civil War
Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
Gina Ochsner's People I Wanted to Be
Rilo Kiley's We'll Never Sleep (God Knows We'll Try)