I’ve discovered a new author. His name is J. M. Coetzee. He is from South Africa and writes in English. His style is unornamented — effortless to read — but conveys the characters’ feelings beautifully. And he is also an excellent storyteller, one who handles that facet of the novelist’s art in interestingly innovative ways. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in, I believe, 2003.
My favorite book by J. M. Coetzee is his recent novel Diary of a Bad Year. It is about an old man in his 70s who is writing the last of many books. He is brilliant — and as he ages he is gradually turning into a dry, purely intellectual, husk of a complete human being. And then something painful but nice happens to him… (Hint: It’s consistent with a certain rapidly-approaching holiday.)
What especially interests me about Mr. Coetzee himself is the (to me) strange juxtaposition of two facts about him: he seems to be obsessed with death and sad events, AND he is extremely handsome.
Here’s a picture of him in his 40s:
The picture doesn’t do him full justice. There’s a better picture on the back on one of his other novels I just read.
Pardon me for this gross oversimplification, but I would have thought that this man, who has had the good fortune to have been throughout his life the exact opposite of my own uncomely self (I am short and fat, and facially unhandsome.), would not possess as gloomy a worldview as he seems to. His worldview is pretty much the same as mine, which is so pessimistic as to be positively un-American.
I ‘ve always believed that I came by my dark worldview mostly through being treated, when I was a child by everyone, and since I have been an adult specifically by women, just about as you’d expect any short, fat male who is not rich and/or powerful to be treated — (plus through a bit of inheritance of depression from my gloomy dad).
I mean, it makes sense, right? I know a guy at work who is tall and handsome and pleasant, and pretty much everyone likes him. He is in his late 40s now, but I bet during all earlier periods of his life women liked him too, for the converse of the reason (I thought!) that they never seemed to like me.
In other words, not to put to fine a point on it, I bet that Mr. Coetzee and my friend at work both got a hell of a lot of pussy when they were young (that being a period when such expansive sexercizing is often the main interest of a man.)
I got very little, natch.
So when a person has access to a lot of something that’s usually very good and satisfying, you’d think that would protect him to some degree from becoming able to see what I consider the true unpleasantness of the human condition.
I guess not always, huh?