Sunday, December 17, 2006

Discovering Elizabeth Costello

I'm reading J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello at the moment. It's no wonder that he is considered one of the greatest writers alive. While I hold little stock in general pronouncements of this nature, Coetzee's mastery of language and expression would, I imagine, make any novelist slightly envious. I'm fascinated by the book, especially the way the Mr. Coetzee examines the life of this particular writer, Elizabeth Costello. The writing is concise yet eloquent, and proves that intelligent and masterful does not always mean difficult and inaccessible. It's this sort of book that makes me elated that I can read the English language.

Elizabeth Costello is a hard book to describe. It is grouped together into eight chapters, called "Lessons". Each chapter tells an set of events that happen in the life of an Australian writer named Elizabeth Costello. Some have said that the books is closer to philosophy than fiction. The books describes actions and events framed around rhetoric pieces in which characters define and explore the "African Novel", the "Lives of Animals", and so on. The rhetoric pieces, usually speeches delivered to an audience, are perhaps what makes some people categorize this novel as philosophy. I find this somewhat of a useless categorization. Certainly, Coetzee philosophizes; but he does so in the voice of his characters---flawed, often rambling philosophizing that not only shares ideas, but the inner workings of the characters themselves. This gives a frame of reference, so that we may study the ideas through the characters rather than in vaccum.

This is my first experience with Coetzee, I can not say for sure whether much of this text is autobiographical in nature. To me this seems to be a slight question in comparison to the ones posed in the text.

Now I crawl back into my hole to explore the book.

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