Quotable

I finished reading J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello last night, an interesting, ambiguous, even perplexing novel. It’s set up as a series of lectures that the character of Elizabeth Costello, a distinguished writer, gives at various locations (universities, conferences, even a cruise ship.) I was drawn to the character, and I also liked how her lectures dealt with so many different, important topics. And I think what I most liked about the book is that it defies classification or labels. Speaking of which, here’s a little excerpt I underlined:

‘Your handicap is that you’re not a problem. What you write hasn’t yet been demonstrated to be a problem. Once you offer yourself as a problem, you might be shifted over into their court. But for the present you’re not a problem, just an example.’
‘An example of what?’
‘An example of writing. An example of how someone of your station and your generation and your origins writes. An instance.’
‘An instance? Am I allowed a word of protest? After all the effort I put into not writing like anyone else?’

On a side note, I went to a chain bookstore the other day to get a copy of Diary of a Bad Year, but couldn’t find it on the display shelves. I asked a clerk at the information desk, “Do you have the latest Coetzee?”
“Is that the title?”
“No, no, that’s the author.”
“Who?”
“Coetzee? The South African writer? Well, now he’s Australian, but you know, from South Africa?”
“Oh” [Blank face.]
“You know, the guy who won the Nobel Prize a couple of years ago.”
“What’s the title again?”

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