Coetzee, Shteyngart Bite Metaphorical Dust ?

Self feels like putting this book down. Oh God, she can’t stand it: 2 a.m. and she just can’t seem to pry her fingers from the pages of J.M. Coetzee’s Slow Man. Why couldn’t she just float into Dreamland after watching “Justified” Episode 5 (Quite a title this episode had: “The Lord of War and Thunder”), the one where Raylan has a teaser of a sex scene with Ava in a motel room; the same episode where we see Raylan casually pushing a slime-ball into a room occupied by two other slime-balls, simply by prodding his back ever-so-gently with his Dad’s baseball bat, all the while engaging in (what’s quickly becoming his established) off-the-cuff repartee; also the one where he pretends to be an out-of-work day laborer who offers to fix up a woman’s yard for free, just so he can learn the whereabouts of the woman’s fugitive-from-the-law husband (You can come fix self’s yard anytime, Raylan!); the one where he . . .

Self, stop it! You are just too much! Not everyone in the blogosphere shares your love of “Justified” and Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens!

Okey-dokey, self will mosey back to more serious topics: which is books.

The other day, she prodded herself through one-fourth of erstwhile favorite author J. M. Coetzee’s Slow Man. Even recommended it to her students at UCLA Extension, for heaven’s sake! Then she found out from reader reviews at that there will be a very interesting development: a woman will appear, a woman who goes by the name of Elizabeth Costello, who is actually J. M. Coetzee’s alter ego. Apparently, on a lecture circuit, Coetzee found he was unable to talk about himself except through the voice of a character, so he created Elizabeth Costello. Frankly, this makes self think Coetzee is freaking nuts. But she reads on, for she did so love his earlier novels, especially Life and Times of Michael K

Self actually does make it to the passage where Elizabeth Costello appears (at 3 a.m.), and Ms. Costello seems like a very ordinary woman. Finally, self decides she can’t swallow all this deconstruction or meta-fiction or whatever and decides to return the book to the library.

Next on her reading list is Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan. Oh, self had high hopes for this book. Top Ten on the New York Times Books of the Year, etc etc. Apparently, it is hilarious. Even Amazon readers find it hilarious. The hero is 325 lbs., farts, and is the sole progeny of the 1,238th richest man in Russia. He has his own bodyguard who is such an enabler he places plate after plate of Beluga caviar in front of our hero, and — well, why does this remind self so much of the fresh hell of Manila? Self does not need Gary Shteyngart to tell her that such creatures as 325-lb. spoiled only sons of rich crooks exist! She doesn’t need anyone to tell her that rich people are the same everywhere, whether they are from Moscow or Manila: they all still want their kids to get American educations! Preferably from Stanford or Harvard! (Self’s own Dear Departed Dad went to Georgetown Law School; hubby’s Dear Departed Dad got his PhD in Chemistry from MIT) Why is self not laughing in the bris removal scene (That’s circumcision, to those of you not in the know)? Or whenever she reads the name of corpulent hero’s American college: Accidental College, har har har — reminds her of Occidental College, where indeed some of son’s Sacred Heart Prep classmates did end up (Except, Occidental’s not in the midwest, like the one of Shteyngart’s hero. No, Occidental is in the flower-filled paradise of Pasadena. And also happens to be a very good school)

But wait, what’s this? Amazon reader says the book is about “the obssessive fascination with male sexual pleasure.”


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