Coetzee in review

November 1st, 2003

David Lodge reviews Elizabeth Costello for the NYRoB. A portion of the book, in which Costello compares the industrial production of meat to the treatment of Jews by the Nazis, had already been published as “The Tanner Lectures” in 1999, and, Lodge says,

Not surprisingly most of the commentators felt somewhat stymied by Coetzee’s meta-lectures, by the veils of fiction behind which he had concealed his own position from scrutiny. There was a feeling, shared by some reviewers of the book, that he was putting forward an extreme, intolerant, and accusatory argument without taking full intellectual responsibility for it.
Encountered in its new context, as Lessons Three and Four of Elizabeth Costello, “The Lives of Animals” no longer seems vulnerable to such criticism. The character of Elizabeth in the novel is a much more rounded figure, with a much more complex history, and is preoccupied with more than one ethical or philosophical issue.

Lodge proceeds to detail the many similarities between the character of Elizabeth Costello and Coetzee himself, and the individual chapters (called “Lessons”) that make up the book, including one in which the novelist Paul West is a character in the book.

Who are they fooling with this one?

October 31st, 2003

Amazon says that, in the five days since it launched Search Inside the Book, sales of books participating in the program were 9% higher than those of books not participating.

Isn’t there a confounding factor here? Couldn’t it just be that the books participating are often recent, well-marketed books from major publishers? Those are bound to be more popular than older, less publicized ones. The more interesting comparison would have been between sales of the 120,000 books participating in the program over time i.e. before the program vs. now. In essence, there are two questions here: Amazon asked, “What difference is there in sales of books in the program and books not in the program?” when they should have asked, “What effect does Search Inside the Book have on sales?”

respite

October 31st, 2003

It rained at long last earlier this morning and we have clouds like marshmallows and clean air and a wonderfully cool breeze and the fires are slowed if not tamed and there is hope yet.

clearing up the confusion

October 30th, 2003

The shortlist for the Guardian First Book award has been announced. Earlier this week I had wondered why they deemed it a longlist when it had only five titles on it, but I can see that they kept two separate lists for fiction and non-fiction and then conflated them for the shortlist, so that Monica Ali’s and DBC Pierre’s novels will compete against histories of the Himalayas and others.

peck brouhaha

October 30th, 2003

James Atlas’ article on Dale Peck in the New York Times, which was mentioned on Moorishgirl earlier this week, led to this interview with Choire Sicha over at Gawker. When I read the interview the first time, I swear, I thought it was a spoof, because the answers seemed, so, well, dalepecky. Really, for someone who dishes out so much grief, he should be able to take some criticism from people without having to call them “ditch-dirty stupid.” The Atlas article inspired a guest column by Steve Almond over at Moby, and some letters in response.

al franken wishes he could make this up

October 29th, 2003

Faux nearly sued itself because it didn’t like that one of its own strayed from their fair and unbalanced agenda.

wolff’s latest

October 29th, 2003

This review of Tobias Wolff’s new novel, Old School, starts, oddly enough, with a mention of Wolff’s brother, Geoffrey.

In the sometimes collegial, sometimes cutthroat hothouse of graduate creative writing instruction in California, two brothers exert a remarkable degree of influence. Directing UC Irvine’s renowned master of fine arts program is Geoffrey Wolff, who has half a dozen novels and a recently published biography of “Appointment in Samarra” author John O’Hara to his name.
Kid brother Tobias serves as co-director of Stanford’s no-less-prestigious curriculum, and has published several story collections and two memoirs, but no novel since his first — 1975′s long-out-of-print “Ugly Rumours” — until now.

Then the reviewer comes to his senses and focuses on the book for the remainder of the article.

melhem at dutton’s

October 29th, 2003

D.H. Melhem will be reading from her sixth collection at Dutton’s tonight. Since the L.A. Times has made its book calendar section for susbscribers only, you can go to the L.A. Weekly‘s readings list for other events

boyle on fires

October 29th, 2003

T.C. Boyle writes about the California fires, for the New York Times:

It is dark here today, the generous golden sun of the Golden State reduced to a pink gumball hanging powerlessly over the treetops. Indoors, the house is a wash of strange, muted colors, the floors glowing red, the kitchen countertops thinly painted in the hue of vin rouge. Outside, the birds are holding their breath as fine threads of white ash roll down out of the sky and the distant thunder of aircraft rumbles through the leaves.

blog round-up

October 29th, 2003

Old Hag has a new “skin.” I’m envious. I need to get a facelift myself. Contact me if you’d like to donate cells.

La Muselivre is back at long last.

Maud had a strong cup of coffee. The entries and articles for this morning alone should tide you over till the evening.


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