Britain's first book blogger (November 2000)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In the grip of something

As I read David Lodge's Author, Author, the mystery of Henry James' imagination preoccupied me. In the novel, he writes his books with remarkable speed and fluency. So speedy, in fact, that one appears between two of Lodge's own sentences. Yet James seems to have done little else but write and move politely within polite society. Where did it all come from?

I’m now reading JM Coetzee's Slow Man. From the reviews, you will surely know the main character Paul Rayment is visited by Elizabeth Costello, the odd, austere novelist from the landmark, eponymous novel. She tells Rayment that he came to her. There wasn’t anything she could do. He came to her as one presumes characters come to novelists. Just after she arrives, she comments on his pathetic infatuation with Marijana, the day nurse. “You are in the grip of something, aren’t you?” she says.

These words are also used to describe David Lurie’s reckless pursuit of the young student Melanie in Disgrace, Coetzee's second Booker Prize winning novel. Lurie knows it is reckless but he is "in the grip of something".

What I like about Coetzee, and why each new book excites my interest, is because the grip is the subject. Where does it come from? Where does it end?

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:45 pm

    Can someone persuede Coetzee to register Coetzee.cx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Perhaps you can persuade us to agree with a reason.

    ReplyDelete

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