Disgrace

 

PD*416227 

 

Ahem. My official review:

This book made me want to read Twilight. Yes, Twilight: perfectly perfect young people falling in love and never growing old. God, I hope that’s what’s in store for me there. I need an antidote to Disgrace.

It affected me more than I thought it could, in ways I hadn’t imagined possible. At page ten I would have readily given it five stars; the writing is superb. Halfway through I’d have given it four. Excellent, but slightly annoying. At the moment I finished it, shouting “WHAT?? What kind of ending is THAT???” and wondering if I was going into shock, I’d have demanded stars back for ruining my life. A little distance was needed before I could consider it rationally again.

The word disgrace is what struck me with nearly every page. Coetzee’s writing is like that. Tight. There’s no escaping what he wants you to see. It’s not outrageously blatant, but it’s none too subtle either. It’s good. So good you might be tempted to revel in it. Do not. This is not for the faint-hearted. Run. Read something easy, something happy. Anything. If you stay Coetzee will turn that word, disgrace, in your mind a hundred different ways. I’m no stranger to the word. I have been a disgrace, been disgraced, disgraced myself and others. Seriously. I thought I was immune to it.

The main character, David Lurie, is disgraced. Big deal. He disgraces a student. Yeah, I’m familiar with that. She’ll live. He is a disgrace. Yes, clearly. David Lurie is entering the disgrace of growing old. That’s where Coetzee has me.

I can’t find it in me to despise Lurie. He’s a Lothario and possibly worse (“She does not own herself. Beauty does not own itself.”), but I don’t have to live with him. Then there’s the sharp intelligence with too little empathy or emotion to make it truly sing. The bare objectiveness. He claims to have lost ‘the lyrical’ within himself, but it’s doubtful he ever had it. He’s a pretender. I’m amused by the fact that he, a professor of language, begins the affair that causes his public fall from grace by quoting Shakespeare’s first sonnet. The words apply as much to himself as to anyone. But self-delusion is my own stock-in-trade. I can’t condemn him for that. I don’t love him either. I feel as dispassionate as Lurie himself. The disgrace of the dying though – the ‘without grace’ – that younger generations foist upon them. That they’re made to feel as intruders in life, burdensome. This is where Coetzee hooks me. And he reels me in. Reels me in until I find myself suffocating in a world I want no part of. A world of shame, dishonor, humiliation, degradation. Disgrace. That of a man, a father, a daughter, a woman, an unborn child. Now make those plural. Add the disgraces of South Africa, of humanity, of animals. Yes, animals. I suspected Coetzee would sneak in a little commentary on that. He has a reputation. I did not expect to be so affected by it. I, a confirmed carnivore, did not expect to lie awake at night considering vegetarianism. Coetzee brings that passionate quote at the beginning of this paragraph back to hit me square in the face near the end though and – once again – Disgrace.

So a full five stars, but would I recommend it? I’m still not sure. Read it if you dare. Coetzee is brilliant.

 

 

Note: Star ratings are based on an out of five. That’s five stars possible. Got it? Good.

Advertisements

Words

 

Words have been on our minds. Today is the spelling bee. For two weeks my daughter has had words to spell tossed at her from every quarter. Conversations usually go like this:

Me: Eat your lunch. Spell tortilla.

The Speller: Tortilla. T-O-R-T-I-L-L-A. Tortilla.

Son: These are peanut butter sandwiches, Mom. Not tacos. What’s your favorite dinosaur?

Me: Brontosaurus. Spell brontosaurus.

Speller: Brontosaurus. B-R-O-

Son: Mom! Brontosaurs didn’t exist! Spell apatosaurus.

Speller: Apatosaurus. A-P-P – wait. A-P-A-T-O-S-A-U-R-U-S. Apatosaurus.

Me: I know, but it’s my favorite because it proves scientists make mistakes, too. Mistake.

Speller: Mistake. M-I-S-T-A-K-E. Mistake.

Pixie Child: Do dinosaurs really eat only girls? Spell ‘girls rock’.

During lunch yesterday we had my iPod playing on the surround sound. The Speller asked to hear a certain song and I said sure, telling her it was popular when I was a teenager and treating them to a little dance. She laughed indulgently, then made her point.

Speller: This song is explicit. E-X-P-L-I-C-I-T. Explicit.

Me: No, it isn’t. It’s… Oh. Wow.

The boy’s eyebrows went up.

Pixie: I know what explicit means.

The Pixie’s favorite thing to tell strangers right now is “I know a bad word. I can’t say it, but it sounds like…” and then she sounds it out for them. Apparently slowly enunciating a word does not equal saying it. There’s always that laugh at the end. She gets to say the word with impunity because she’s not really saying it. Not technically. Then she tells her story. “We were in the car and Mom was singing and I don’t think she was paying attention because I think she forgot to turn because she stopped at a stop sign. I can spell stop. S-T-O-P. At the stop sign she said that word and I said I think you just said a bad word and she turned the car around and we turned onto the road that doesn’t go by Cracker Barrel. Do you want me to tell you the word again?”

So I don’t know who I thought I was kidding yesterday when I said “Yeah, we’ll have to take that song off your iPods.”

Son: It’s not like we’ve never heard the word, Mom.

Me (with horror): Where? Where have you heard that word?

Son: You. You say it all the time.

They’re all smirking at me at this point. I smirk back.

Me: Well. I’m not going to say it anymore. It’s a bad word and I have a better vocabulary.

Son: Give me a dollar every time you say it.

Me: A nickel.

Son: A quarter.

Me: A nickel. I have to wean myself.

Son: You’ll stop sooner if you give me a dollar every time.

Speller: If you give each of us a dollar.

Me: I don’t have that much money.

Speller: Then you won’t say it, will you?

Sometimes it sucks having smart kids. But don’t tell them I said that. They’re smug enough. I haven’t had to make any pay outs yet, thankfully. Nor have I had to flex my wider vocabulary under stress though. Maybe I should write some phrases down so I’ll be ready. In case I can’t bite my tongue.

I am perturbed.

This situation is odious.

Stop being so fractious. I love you and do not want to pay you a dollar.

Snow Day

The wind still howls, but the snow has stopped. My husband escaped to work on snowshoes this morning. What ever made me think snowshoes were a good gift? I should have given him a snowshovel or blower or a plow! Instead, over the years, I’ve given him a sled, a tobbogan, skis, and snowshoes. A means of freedom.

What was I thinking??