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Customer Review

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Diary Like No Other, 26 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Diary of a Bad Year (Hardcover)
Some random observations on the book and reviews of it:

1. Not sure why some people criticise this for not being a proper novel. I don't see where Coetzee ever claimed this to be a novel. Although it's fiction, it's in the form of a diary (which the title makes clear) plus what the auther calls a "miscellany" (the essays grouped as "Strong Opinions" and "Second Diary"). So you're getting two brilliant literary creations for the price of one.

2. I never noticed how many "blank spaces" there were in the book. I was too busy enjoying the content of the non-blank spaces. Criticism that the project is "too short" imply that value for money in literature is quantitative rather than qualitative. Surely you jest. These criticisms bring to mind diners at a Michellen-starred restaurant complaining that the portions are smaller than at their local greasy spoon.

3. The most satisfying aspect of the book for me is Coetzee's incisive analysis of so many subjects in the essays. Just simple things like pointing out that fire is unique because the more it is fed, the more it consumes, insatiably, without end. "If water burned, too, the world would long ago have been consumed by fire" (I paraphrase).

4. The only disappointment in the book for me is when Coetzee/Senor C. turns to the subject of US foreign policy, he inevitably (and, sadly, predictably) works himself up into a Pinter-esque lather that spirals into hysterical absurdities (e.g., the suggestion that morally upright Americans might consider topping themselves due to the shame of Guantanamo prison conditions...steady on, JM...)

But, I also realise that Coetzee may be intentionally heightening the intensity of the opinions expressed, as they are supposed to be as strong as possible, based on the request of the publisher of the fictional miscellany. Also, Coetzee/Senor C. admonishes his typist/muse Anya that he is not necessarily revealing his true opinions in the essays.

5. The bottom line: this man is a brilliant thinker and author. The form of this book is totally unique and the challenge of how to read the various parallel sections is richly rewarded by the extraordinary insights within. Read it.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Feb 2008 19:10:18 GMT
Coetzee doesn't claim this is a novel, but his publisher and reviewers of course do. I think quantity may or may not matter, depending on whether the author has taken the project as far as it will go. "Anna Karenina" and "Metamorphosis" are both an ideal length. An interesting example is "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth, which at 400 pages feels short and rushed.
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Location: Glasgow, Scotland

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