Friday, August 24, 2007

J.M. Coetzee/ELIZABETH COSTELLO


I've really enjoyed Coetzee in the past--I loved DISGRACE, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MICHAEL K, and WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS. He's great with brief, thoughtful prose, always humanistically inclined. You come out of his books feeling like a better and wiser person.

ELIZABETH COSTELLO I was a little disappointed by. It's a series of essays about moments in the life of a fictional novelist. It's very moral-oriented (each chapter is called a "Lesson"), occasionally felt like coursework reading, and (forgive me for this but) was rather self-indulgent--a writer writing about writing and writers.

There are definitely some thoughtful and worthwhile passages, but I found them work to get through. Low-brow girls like me appreciate those quaint little devices like plot, unfortunately.

PW, I see on Amazon, gave it a "reverberating" review ("a resounding achievement" they say). Hum. The only chapter I had any fun with at all was the last one, which can essentially stand alone.

Oh well. Anyone else read this? Am I way off?

2 comments:

Froog said...

I know what you mean about "writers writing about writing" being generally a bit self-indulgent, alienating for the ordinary reader. It's a major drawback in the Philip Roth novel I just posted about too.

Kaytie M. Lee said...

I read it, and agree with you. Bits and pieces of ELIZABETH COSTELLO would be fine, but the whole thing at once was a little much, even for this writer.

Plus, isn't it some sort of meta-fiction thing, with Elizabeth being an alter-ego of some kind?

I did appreciate the section about not sensationalizing the deaths of real people.