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    Sobriquet 42.24

    Friday, May 23, 2008
    So, despite today being a rather busy day, I did manage to read a bit more of Diary of a Bad Year. There are times when I am really into it, and other moments when the book strikes me as having hit a false note, where Coetzee's alter-ego seems to resemble Joseph Heller's Eugene Pota, the fictional author struggling to write one last novel in Portrait of the Artist as An Old Man. Like Pota, the fictional Juan Coetzee realizes that he hasn't the time left to write everything he wants to put on paper and, consequently, crams as many half-formed ideas as he can into his strange little book. Then, at other times, the novel seems to shine with the sort of energy and insight only a true master could produce at the zenith of his powers. So, yeah. It's a weird one, that's for sure.

    Just for fun (especially since I was so glum-sounding yesterday), and since one of the more entertaining essays in Strong Opinions is Juan Coetzee's screed on grammatical and linguistic entropy, I'll leave you with a grammatically terrible Coca-Cola slogan I found painted on the side of an old soda machine this evening:

    For tomorrow and Sunday: Read.

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    Wednesday, February 27, 2008
    As much as I enjoy my job, I have to admit, I'd really like a snow day tomorrow. Granted, I got the chance to enjoy the winter wonderland beauty of a day-long snowfall today, but there's something particularly special about snow days. They're among the little bonuses in life; they free up time and give us a sense of having somehow beaten the system. Oh, and they mean I don't have to forgo eight hours of sleep.

    In any case, besides chipping away at the bit of transcription I hope to finish this week, I started reading Dusklands today. I really can't say too, too much about the book because I only read the first section of "The Vietnam Project," the first of the two novellas which make up Coetzee's first book. So far, though, I find the book considerably denser than the author's later work. Eugene Dawn, the "creative" propagandist penning the report around which the eponymous novella is built, strikes me as an utterly unlikeable human being. He has more than a little bit of Dostoevsky's perverse Underground Man in him but none of that sad man's pitiable qualities. He's smug, paranoid, self-important, annoyingly obsequious, and writes in a style that is emotionally detached and uncomfortably frank (not to mention self-consciously erudite, calculated, and manipulative...he is, after all, a propagandist). In that regard, Dawn resembles no one literary character more than Bob Slocum, the protagonist of Joseph Heller's Something Happened, which is not a particularly flattering comparison.

    The novella is interesting. Many of the recurring themes in Coetzee's fiction appear in "The Vietnam Project": the nature of writing, the struggle between the powerful and the powerless, the production of official history, and the unfulfilling, emotionally barren romances Coetzee's readers have come to expect.

    I look forward to seeing where the book goes.

    For tomorrow: Some more transcription and some more of Dusklands.

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