Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
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Poll

How often do you read for pleasure?

Only when I am not overloaded with school reading...which is pretty much never.
 65 (28.8%)
All the time! I make time!
 139 (61.5%)
I don't really like to read.
 22 (9.7%)

Total Members Voted: 191

Author Topic: What are you reading right now?  (Read 80484 times)

skaiserbrown

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #80 on: January 06, 2006, 04:19:48 PM »
admiral ackbar: "It's a trap!"

redemption

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #81 on: January 06, 2006, 04:25:07 PM »

"The South African Experience" is a multifaceted thing - it is many things, not one. That's what I meant. I understand it/them well enough.

Then, please, by all means, explain some.


Boer/Anglo/Ndebele/Xhosa/Zulu..... Urban/rural/suburban.....  Cape experience not same as Transvaal exp.... Farmer/Banker/Professor  Not everyone in RSA loves cricket; not every white South African in the 80s was a racist. Nothing exceptional about RSA: like many other countries (incl this one) it is not one society, but many - held together by a shred. There is, to put it plainly, no such thing as South Africa.

One of the problems that I have with Coetzee, apart from his lack of a style that one can call his own ("Barbarians" excepted) is the narrow-mindedness of his view of what, for the sake of discussion, we call "South Africa", and of South Africans...the south asian prostitute, the white liberal professor, the mute/brute black... All of his characters are the silliest sort of stereotypes. And all of this contrasts starkly with the scale of his ambitions.

Booker types, with an odd mix of patronizing condescension and undue respect for anyone who writes and is from the former empire, genuflect too quickly in his direction. His Lit Crit is good, his fiction is weak.

FossilJ

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #82 on: January 06, 2006, 04:28:15 PM »
Coetzee is affected: Disgrace is trite.

Agreed. Disgrace may be superficially concerned with SA issues, but if you look at the narrative, it's from the wholly alienated perspective of an middle/upper-class white guy. It could be anywhere. The only SA influence I perceived where in various bare-bones descriptions. My impression was that he merely transplanted the traditional "orientalism" into an African context.


Jesus Christ.  What does this mean?

The perspective is ironic.  As such, it is crucial.  The "middle-class white guy" is necessarily alienated from a world he once ruled.  But, in South Africa, this is a particularly complex situation.  This isn't an Orientalist text.  It is, in every way, an ANTI-Orientalist text.  The protagonist realizes (despite his flights of fancy, his choice to live in a dreamworld) that this is HIM, this is HIS NATION, this is WHO HE IS, and that he must deal with it.  He is SOUTH AFRICAN, take it or leave it, just like everyone else around him.  The book, after all, is about his re-insertion into the world he inhabits, about his fall from grace, a fantasy he inhabited as a middle-class white, "above" others for so long, and further ingrained by his life's work (teaching Byron). 

I don't know how you could call the "SA influence" "bare-bones descriptions" when the book is fundamentally and wholly concerned with the state of the nation, post-apartheid.  When every single occurrence directly deals with current issues of importance in South Africa.  When every theme is race/class oriented, specific to the South African situation.  When the conclusion of the book is the only solution for a torn country: reconciliation.  I am South African.  I've never read an author that showed more awareness of the specific complexities of everyday relations in the nation than Coetzee does in Disgrace.  The text is an absolute masterpiece if cultural depth is the measure.  This isn't a novel about the township or the downtrodden black masses - those are noble projects in and of themselves, but they are different facets of the new South Africa, and ones you're likely to have encountered many times before. 

That said, you think the characters were accidents?  You think, for instance, the humiliation of a "Cape Colored" family differs from that of an obviously disconnected white professor?  (I mean, for GOD'S sakes, the guy is a Byron expert - he LIVES in a romantic world from which he's rudely jolted - did you miss this?)  Or do you not know what "Cape Colored" is?  Did you even know the girl with whom he slept was not white?  Do you understand why that would matter?

Agrarian land reform.  Paradigm shifts.  Violence.  The dissolution of race-based classes.  Poverty.  Even animal rights.  The new South Africa.  It's all there.  If you don't get that, I suggest you study the country a bit more closely first.

If you didn't like the book, that's fine.  But don't call it what it isn't.

And one more thing.  What the @#!* is wrong with the "alienated middle-class white perspective" anyway?  Are authors not allowed to write from this perspective anymore?  This isn't really targeted at you specifically.  I just hear this "criticism" way too often.  If you've got an interesting view on this, please share.
Pish, J only wants to waste YOUR time.  Get wise.

vegemitemama

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #83 on: January 06, 2006, 04:35:22 PM »
pwnt. js.

FossilJ

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #84 on: January 06, 2006, 04:40:10 PM »

"The South African Experience" is a multifaceted thing - it is many things, not one. That's what I meant. I understand it/them well enough.

Then, please, by all means, explain some.


Boer/Anglo/Ndebele/Xhosa/Zulu..... Urban/rural/suburban.....  Cape experience not same as Transvaal exp.... Farmer/Banker/Professor  Not everyone in RSA loves cricket; not every white South African in the 80s was a racist. Nothing exceptional about RSA: like many other countries (incl this one) it is not one society, but many - held together by a shred. There is, to put it plainly, no such thing as South Africa.

One of the problems that I have with Coetzee, apart from his lack of a style that one can call his own ("Barbarians" excepted) is the narrow-mindedness of his view of what, for the sake of discussion, we call "South Africa", and of South Africans...the south asian prostitute, the white liberal professor, the mute/brute black... All of his characters are the silliest sort of stereotypes. And all of this contrasts starkly with the scale of his ambitions.

Booker types, with an odd mix of patronizing condescension and undue respect for anyone who writes and is from the former empire, genuflect too quickly in his direction. His Lit Crit is good, his fiction is weak.

See irony

PS:  Your first paragraph reads like a paraphrase from your Lit. Crit. or Comp. Lit. class, professor-provided, "context."  Which I suspect it is.  Nice job on the nouns. 

You see, I've lived both here and in South Africa.  The fact of the matter is, things ARE exceptional in South Africa.  It takes Coetzee's bitingly sarcastic prose to shake the middle-class white male (specifically, the educated English white male) from his life-long reverie. 

The "stereotypes" are such for a reason.  In fact, if you read all blacks as brutal (with the exception of the rapists, which, by the way, is a major problem in South Africa), then you misread Coetzee completely.  The point is exactly the opposite: that what appears to the culturally intolerant white person to be crass or brutal is, in fact, a way of being, an approach to life to which they must become accustomed in order to survive in a changing society. 

What Petrus does (that name in itself is ridiculously ironic) is not some trumped-up creation of Coetzee's: it's what's happening in South Africa right now.  The finger isn't being pointed at black people, it's being pointed at white people.  By creating such a weak protagonist, one who has literally fallen from "grace", Coetzee is basically saying, "WAKE UP, THIS IS YOU, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!"  Coetzee doesn't fault Petrus for his actions; rather, he faults his own protagonist for his reactions.  He ridicules the character's miscomprehension of the vagaries of the situation. 

That's just one example.

But, please, I'm still waiting for a cogent analysis of the new South Africa, if you've got one.
Pish, J only wants to waste YOUR time.  Get wise.

EE Cummings

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #85 on: January 06, 2006, 04:41:46 PM »
I am reading a Property Casebook in prep for Monday's class.

Oh the joy.
Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

redemption

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #86 on: January 06, 2006, 04:49:17 PM »
I'm afraid the problem is not that his characterizations (and, dare I say it, his use of symbolism) are accidental. If it/they were, it would be easier to overlook the problems with the book. I agree that they are central. I agree that his stance is intended to be ironic. It just fails, that's all: at least for me.

If he were to fail in a spectacular way - as, for example, Salman Rushdie repeatedly has after Midnight's Children - then at least that would be entertaining in a horrifying "what a @#!* up" kind-of-way. But, in the end, reading a book that has no stylistic merit about mundane issues (sorry, but the middle-aged white guy losing his place has been DONE!!), about an imaginary "nation" that does not exist, centered around people who (with the exception of the daughter) are not interesting - well, that is a waste of time.

Once again, I appreciate that you like him and his work. Many people do. I'll be democratic and say that you are more likely to be right about this than I

redemption

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #87 on: January 06, 2006, 05:01:10 PM »
See irony

PS:  Your first paragraph reads like a paraphrase from your Lit. Crit. or Comp. Lit. class, professor-provided, "context."  Which I suspect it is.  Nice job on the nouns. 

You see, I've lived both here and in South Africa.  The fact of the matter is, things ARE exceptional in South Africa.  It takes Coetzee's bitingly sarcastic prose to shake the middle-class white male (specifically, the educated English white male) from his life-long reverie. 

The "stereotypes" are such for a reason.  In fact, if you read all blacks as brutal (with the exception of the rapists, which, by the way, is a major problem in South Africa), then you misread Coetzee completely.  The point is exactly the opposite: that what appears to the culturally intolerant white person to be crass or brutal is, in fact, a way of being, an approach to life to which they must become accustomed in order to survive in a changing society. 

What Petrus does (that name in itself is ridiculously ironic) is not some trumped-up creation of Coetzee's: it's what's happening in South Africa right now.  The finger isn't being pointed at black people, it's being pointed at white people.  By creating such a weak protagonist, one who has literally fallen from "grace", Coetzee is basically saying, "WAKE UP, THIS IS YOU, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!"  Coetzee doesn't fault Petrus for his actions; rather, he faults his own protagonist for his reactions.  He ridicules the character's miscomprehension of the vagaries of the situation. 

That's just one example.

But, please, I'm still waiting for a cogent analysis of the new South Africa, if you've got one.


Do you honestly think that I would give you an opinion that was not my own?
You have lived in South Africa and I have not?
And whether either of us has or has not is relevant to this discussion? You are posting too quickly, faster than it takes to think.

Anyway, as you were. All I'd wanted to do was suggest Galgut to you, if you hadn't read him.

magnumalv

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #88 on: January 06, 2006, 05:09:04 PM »
Woohoo! Ok, I admit: as a South African, you have an infinetly better grasp of the politics. However, from a literary perspective (which I believe was the initial discussion), this is what I think:

My overwhelming impression of Disgrace was a recognition of the banality of Western suburban living. I expected elemental landscapes and accented miscommunication (literal and societal), but am greeted instead with a fading farmhouse and an animal shelter, confronted with conversations among many white people, but only one expressive (black) African. Only in very few moments do I glimpse a foreign landscape--the market, the multiple wives, the rape, the medallion-adorned storyteller. Those moments are jarring elements in an otherwise recognizable culture of  distant politics, personal confusion, and habitual adjustment. The novel, although ostensibly third person, is entirely from the vision of Lurie (aka alienated white guy), who is oblivious. Lurie's story--for it is his, truly--is about himself: his disgrace, his daughter, his supposed adjustment to the new South Africa. The South Africa that David sees is a hyperreal Africa, one which he has learned from his university politics and theory rather than true examination or honest experience. The major failing of the novel, however, is that he does nothing about that. I think his alienation is a vital element of his character and Coetzee's themes; however, unlike you, I don't think Lurie ever transcends it... he never relinquinshes his tight-fisted grasp of pre-conceived reality. For example: re: the rape, David's worries reveal more about his fears than Lucy's, the true victim. Despite the fact that he wasn't at the rape, he insists that it was retribution for a "history of wrongs," "from the ancestors"--a broad, impersonal action in which Lucy was an infortunate object, an explanation that fits perfectly with David's ideology-tinged persona.  Through Lucy's silence, David circled the event back to him, back to his actions, his understanding, not hers--reinforcement, not re-evaluation.

I think it's key that David's decision to euthanise the crippled dog is seen as his oh-so-important and climactic capitulation. The grand gesture is supposed to indicate a relinquishment of control--renouncing his role as "master" and whatnot. Yet, the act is so empty. There's no understanding, no knowledge gained from his relationship with the dog. It was there and now it's gone and he goes forward, essentially unchanged.

Basically, Lurie doesn't learn anything from his disgrace. His "apology" to the girl/student he sleeps with is a mockery of ritualistic sacrificial bowing, etc. He persists in his pathetic banjo-opera even despite his realization that it is pathetic.

How can this be an examination of the intracies of a culture when it is entirely from the perspective of a man who refuses to recognize or adapt to those complexities despite all indications that he should?

And one more thing.  What the @#!* is wrong with the "alienated middle-class white perspective" anyway?  Are authors not allowed to write from this perspective anymore?  This isn't really targeted at you specifically.  I just hear this "criticism" way too often.  If you've got an interesting view on this, please share.

The problem arises when the alienated white guy doesn't accomplish or learn anything as a result of recognizing that alienation.

FossilJ

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #89 on: January 06, 2006, 05:09:56 PM »
I'm afraid the problem is not that his characterizations (and, dare I say it, his use of symbolism) are accidental. If it/they were, it would be easier to overlook the problems with the book. I agree that they are central. I agree that his stance is intended to be ironic. It just fails, that's all: at least for me.

This is fair enough.  You don't like his style.  That's fine.  It's the rest of your reasoning I'm criticizing.

If he were to fail in a spectacular way - as, for example, Salman Rushdie repeatedly has after Midnight's Children - then at least that would be entertaining in a horrifying "what a @#!* up" kind-of-way.

Agreed.

But, in the end, reading a book that has no stylistic merit about mundane issues (sorry, but the middle-aged white guy losing his place has been DONE!!),

No stylistic merit?  Arguable.  Mundane issues?  I just demonstrated how you misunderstand these issues.  You have not addressed them.

Furthermore, the argument that something's "been done" is trite.  Almost every approach has "been done"; it's the layering, the complexity of that approach, and its context, that matters.

about an imaginary "nation" that does not exist,

This is so ridiculous, it's laughable.  Unless you want to quibble about the semantics of "nation" (and if you do, there are some issues on which we'll agree), your dismissal of South Africa as a whole marks you as ignorant.  Whether this is intentional, we shall see.  Diverse?  Yes.  Uniform?  No.  A cultural complexity distinct from others around the world?  Yes.  Thank you, multi-ethnic settler culture, segregation, and, eventually, apartheid. 

centered around people who (with the exception of the daughter) are not interesting

If they're not interesting, that's your call.  This is a completely different statement from "they're the silliest of stereotypes", which they are not.

- well, that is a waste of time.

So, the imaginary novel you just pretended to understand is a waste of time.  Good work.

Once again, I appreciate that you like him and his work. Many people do. I'll be democratic and say that you are more likely to be right about this than I

Actually, I don't like that much of Coetzee's work.  This novel, however, was powerful.  It contained surprising depth; the insight and the author's exploration of the intricacies of this insight was phenomenal.  I've provided a superficial analysis already.  It's more than you've done.

Feel free to dislike it, as I've stated before.  However, if you're going to critically attack it, then at least have an argument.
Pish, J only wants to waste YOUR time.  Get wise.