Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

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 81923 times)

FossilJ

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #90 on: January 06, 2006, 05:22:49 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?

Brilliant.  This is awesome.  Clearly, from a literary perspective, you do understand the novel.  Yet, somehow, you miss the irony.

This isn't a novel about transcendence.  This isn't "this is your crappy world, now change it."  It's Coetzee's acerbic commentary on the continued self-indulgence of white, middle-class South Africa.

Lurie's eyes are opened to reality, and what does he do?  He tries to write a banal opera about nothing, hidden away from reality.  He runs away.  That's just it.  Coetzee's criticism in the novel is the same criticism you have of the novel: that people just like him (both the protagonist and the author) do nothing.  He ridicules the complacency and the farcical rationalizations of those like Lurie.  It's not a coincidence that Lurie's world revolves around other white people and threatening blacks.  That's the way many white people see South Africa: clearly, that is not the way it really is.  THAT'S the fundamental irony of this novel.

Realize?  Sure.  Repent?  Probably not.  Reform?  Never.  This is the attitude Coetzee addresses.  It's one that he clearly abhors (granted, I've read a lot of his critical essays as well).

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.

Incorrect.  He doesn't need to for the novel to be effective, as Disgrace demonstrates.
Pish, J only wants to waste YOUR time.  Get wise.

magnumalv

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #91 on: January 06, 2006, 05:34:02 PM »
 
 You are posting too quickly, faster than it takes to think.

I guess that makes me faster than a speeding bullet, or something.  If you can't process this quickly, then too bad.


Perhaps your blazing intelligence may be a bit difficult to reconcile with your decidely, um, intellectual avator.  ;D

FossilJ

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #92 on: January 06, 2006, 05:38:20 PM »
 
 You are posting too quickly, faster than it takes to think.

I guess that makes me faster than a speeding bullet, or something.  If you can't process this quickly, then too bad.


Perhaps your blazing intelligence may be a bit difficult to reconcile with your decidely, um, intellectual avator.  ;D

 :D :D :D

Nah, my intelligence is definitely not "blazing," nor am I implying such.  I just think that statement is vapid given the lack of substantive response to my posts.
Pish, J only wants to waste YOUR time.  Get wise.

skaiserbrown

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #93 on: January 06, 2006, 05:39:35 PM »
i am so out of this thread.

 :D

redemption

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #94 on: January 06, 2006, 05:40:04 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.

Yes, I agree with your analysis, Maggs. True enough, as J says, that Coetzee is indifferent to those kinds of resolutions. My sense is that he is trying to reflect "white" south africans' ambivalence toward to 'New South Africa' - not particularly contrite, not particularly nostalgic... life just, sort of, goes on as everyone (or, at least, those who haven't moved to Australia) tries to figure out what's going on.

The whole issue is so barren: as though this RSA experience is new to the world; as though these issues didn't play out in India or Kenya or Indonesia or in Algeria. It is a disease, particular to anglo-boer "south africans" that they feel themselves to be different in kind to the rest of us; their history and experiences, you see, are unique. Their pains are specific to them, never having been felt before. Perhaps it was the isolation of the embargo years that makes them feel this way.

No matter: if Disgrace were for a domestic audience, for the suburban housewives of Durban to read while their maids cleaned the house, I can imagine that there would be some merit in it: the frisson of recognition (the ugly black rapist, etc), but for the rest of us, for an international audience that knows better, that has more distance from the emotions involved, there needs to be a literary payoff. J is allowing me some discretion in choosing my own tastes, and I am excercising it by saying that narcissism, stick figures, and lack of style just doesn't do it for me.

In order to see clearly what is small about Coetzee, contrast his work with another author who took on the place where he is from: Marquez.

Go 'boks!

redemption

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #95 on: January 06, 2006, 05:44:50 PM »
Oh, and I deny that a South African necessarily has a better grasp of the politics there than a non-South African. But, that's just an aside.

We should hand this thread back y'all - nobody cares about Coetzee. Fantasy books are more fun.

magnumalv

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #96 on: January 06, 2006, 05:46:11 PM »
redacted

FossilJ

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #97 on: January 06, 2006, 05:46:50 PM »
Oh, and I deny that a South African necessarily has a better grasp of the politics there than a non-South African. But, that's just an aside.

We should hand this thread back y'all - nobody cares about Coetzee. Fantasy books are more fun.

And I'd agree with that.  But I chose to study the country rather than fall under the same cultural indoctrinations that plagued most of my family and friends.
Pish, J only wants to waste YOUR time.  Get wise.

redemption

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #98 on: January 06, 2006, 05:49:52 PM »
In order to see clearly what is small about Coetzee, contrast his work with another author who took on the place where he is from: Marquez.

Coetzee's work is like a desert compared to the carnivale of Marquez... :) I'm a fan. And I have no hesistations in admiring Rushdie, either, despite his failings. I actually wrote my sr thesis on Satanic Verses. Fun fun fun (for a lit nerd like myself).

GGM is an Original. Bit of a shame that so many have tried to imitate him. Have you read "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight", Maggs? I think you might enjoy that. It is authentic.

skaiserbrown

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Re: What are you reading right now?
« Reply #99 on: January 06, 2006, 05:51:17 PM »
omfg.

i adore marquez.

finally someone i know something about.

good f-ing lord does he write pretty.

"love in the time of cholera" is my favorite book of the past year.