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Slow Manby J M Coetzee
"Slow Man poses important questions (How vulnerable are the weak? What does a life look like after it has been changed forever? How fraught is the relationship between writer and subject?), but it is a less provocative, less intellectually rigorous, less artful book than the tricky and brilliant Elizabeth Costello. With its meandering, present-tense sentences and sometimes clumsy revelations, Slow Man reads more like a sketch or a first draft of a novel. It feels, in the end, like a setup, a story blurted out too fast." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
When photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his solitary life is irrevocably changed whether he likes it or not. Stubbornly refusing a prosthesis, Paul returns to his bachelor's apartment in Adelaide, Australia, uncomfortable with his new dependency on others. He is given to bouts of hopelessness and resignation as he looks back on his sixty years of life, but his spirits are lifted when he finds himself falling in love with Marijana, his practical, down-to-earth Croatian nurse who is struggling to raise her family in a foreign land. As Paul contemplates how to win her heart, he is visited by the mysterious writer Elizabeth Costello, who challenges Paul to take an active role in his own life.
In this new book, Coetzee offers a profound meditation on what makes us human, on what it means to grow older and reflect on how we have lived our lives. Like all great works of literature, Slow Man is a novel that asks questions but rarely provides answers; it is a portrait of a man in search of truth. Paul Rayment's accident changes his perspective on life, and as a result, he begins to address the kinds of universal concerns that define us all: What does it mean to do good? What in our lives is ultimately meaningful? Is it more important for one to feel loved or cared for? How do we define the place that we call "home"? In his clear and uncompromising voice, Coetzee struggles with these issues, and the result is a deeply moving story about love and mortality that dazzles the reader on every page.
"Nobel-winner Coetzee (Disgrace) ponders life, love and the mind/ body connection in his latest heavy-hitter; he also plays a little trick. When retired photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his lengthy, lonely recuperation forces him to reflect on a life he deems wasted. The gloom lifts with the arrival of brisk, efficient Marijana Jokic, his Croatian day nurse, with whom Paul becomes infatuated. (He also takes a special interest in Marijana's teenage boy — the son he never had.) It's here, while Paul frets over how to express his feelings, that Coetzee (perhaps unsure if his dithering protagonist can sustain the book) gets weird: the distinguished writer Elizabeth Costello, eponymous heroine of Coetzee's 2003 novel, comes for a visit. To Paul's bewilderment, Costello (Coetzee's alter ego?) exhorts him to become more of a main character in the narrative, even orchestrating events to force his reactions. Some readers will object to this cleverness and the abstract forays into the mysteriousness of the writing process. It is to Coetzee's credit, however, a testament to his flawless prose and appealing voice, that while challenging the reader with postmodern shenanigans, the story of how Paul will take charge of his life and love continues to engage, while Elizabeth Costello the device softens into a real character, one facing frailties of her own. She pushes Paul, or Paul pushes Elizabeth — both push Coetzee — on to the bittersweet conclusion. Agent, Peter Lampack. (On sale Sept. 26)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"I take this novel to be a scrutiny of disappointment and irresolution, a chicken-and-egg affair that does not yield satisfactory answers. Still, Coetzee's narrative is...beautifully composed, deeply thought, wonderfully written." New York Times
"While Coetzee's precision, intelligence and exploration of character make any novel he writes worth reading, Slow Man isn't his most successful. The stitching shows in places, and sometimes the plot and the characters' musings wander." Portland Oregonian
"Slow Man has more narrative than the laxly discursive Elizabeth Costello, and does build appreciable dramatic momentum, before ending inconclusively. Still, one has the uneasy feeling that Coetzee's Nobel Prize has had an enervating effect....Where is the author of Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace, now that we need him most?" Kirkus Reviews
"This is a finely wrought portrait of a not entirely sympathetic protagonist crippled in ways that go well beyond the loss of a limb." Library Journal
"Coetzee has sacrificed his characters for his ponderous hypotheses about love and legacy and leaving a trace in the world." Boston Globe
"Most readers expect books to take them on a journey....But Coetzee elects to remain static and analyze the situation ad nauseam....Neither tragic nor comic — just unfortunate. That about sums up the book for me." Christian Science Monitor
A fascinating dialogue on the human desire to make up stories between Nobel Prizewinning author J. M. Coetzee and psychotherapist Arabella Kurtz
The Good Story is an exchange between a writer with a long-standing interest in moral psychology and a psychotherapist with training in literary studies. Coetzee and Kurtz consider psychotherapy and its wider social context from different perspectives, but at the heart of both their approaches is a fascination with narrative. Working alone, the writer is in control of the story he or she tells. The therapist, on the other hand, collaborates with the patient in telling the story that might reveal the truth.”
The authors discuss both individual psychology and the psychology of the group: the school classroom, the gang, the settler nation in which the brutal deeds of the ancestors must be accommodated into a national story. In a meeting of the minds that is illuminating, surprising, and thought provoking, Coetzee and Kurtz explore the human capacity for self-examination—our attempts to understand our own individual life stories as well as our part in the larger story through language.
J. M. Coetzee , one of the greatest living writers in the English language, has crafted a deeply moving tale of love and mortality in his new book, Slow Man. When photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, he is forced to reexamine how he has lived his life. Through Paul's story, Coetzee addresses questions that define us all: What does it mean to do good? What in our lives is ultimately meaningful? How do we define the place we call "home"? In his clear and uncompromising voice, Coetzee struggles with these issues and offers a story that will dazzle the reader on every page.
About the Author
J. M. Coetzee has won many literary awards, including three CNA prizes (South Africa's premier literary award), two Booker prizes, the Prix Femina Étranger, the Jerusalem Prize, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003.
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