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    Sobriquet 47.4

    Sunday, October 5, 2008
    As a result of staying up so late yesterday night, I've been sleepy all day even though I slept much later than I had hoped to do. I did, however, get through another article this evening, bringing me a tiny step closer to finishing what has been an incredibly draining undertaking. As much as I love Disgrace and as interested as I am in the interpretive possibilities the novel offers, I simply cannot wait to be finished reading the criticism. Lately, I have been spending whole afternoons struggling to get through an essay. I mean, I'll read a page, get up, check email, return to the text, read two lines of the article, get up again, take a walk or a drive, find a nice place to read, read a tiny bit, get bored, get up, find a new place, and repeat. It sucks. And it's not that the criticism is lousy. I just hate reading the same things over and over. After a while, one grows numb and his or her eye's begin to wander and it's harder to absorb information.

    But this, too, is something I must accept as part of the dissertation.

    And so I do.

    But I grumble, too. I occasionally grit my teeth as well. And once, in a particularly weak moment, I beat my breast and shouted lamentations to the heavens. Then again, I may have read that somewhere.

    As far as what I have been reading, today I read Rachel McCoppin's "Existential Endurance: Resolution from Accepting the 'Other' in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace," from the special Stirrings Still issue devoted entirely to Coetzee. In it, McCoppin bypasses the critical tendency to turn towards Emmanuel Levinas's conception of the other, back to the Sartrean understanding of the concept and towards Nietzsche for an understanding of the formation of David Lurie's personal ethical system in the novel. What McCoppin does most effectively is reveal just how much the poststructuralists are indebted to the existentialists they are so often said to have superseded, especially in terms of the concept of the Other. Much of her reasoning does, however, proceed along the same general lines as many other readings of the novel: Lurie's encounters with the Other -- be they with his daughter (one of McCoppin's more inspired interpretations), the three assailants, or non-human animals -- force him to recognize the ultimate value of the Other, the necessity of relinquishing the drive to dominate that which he cannot control, and the small blessings brought about by the assumption of a humility hitherto absent from his existence. In a similar -- though explicitly Levinasian -- vein, Michael Marais concludes that the humbling "responsibility [for the Other] is an effect of [Lurie]'s loss of control over that which [he] thought [he] could control" (18). Unlike McCoppin's essay, which emphasizes Lurie's conscious decision to become a better person, Marais's text -- "Impossible Possibilities: Ethics and Choice in J. M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals and Disgrace" -- suggests that "[a]lthough he becomes a better person in the course of the novel, he does not do so of his own volition" (10). Indeed, in learning to love despite himself, Lurie joins the ranks of the doctor in Life & Times of Michael K, Elizabeth Curren in Age of Iron, and Dostoevsky in The Master of Petersburg by loving the unloveable and/or unknowable: K., John, and Sergei Nechaev, respectively.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

    Works Cited

    Marais, Michael. "Impossible Possibilities: Ethics and Choice in J. M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals and Disgrace." The English Academy Review 18.1 (2001): 1-20.

    McCoppin, Rachel. "Existential Endurance: Resolution from Accepting the 'Other' in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Stirrings Still: The International Journal of Existential Literature 3.1 (2006): 71-81.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, May 1, 2008
    I don't have much to say about today other than that I read a bit more of Life & Times of Michael K and continue to love the book. If anything, it is probably Coetzee's most "positive" novel, though that term may still be misleading. This is one of those books I can't wait to finish; it's also one of those books that I enjoy so much that I do not want to finish it.

    For tomorrow: Dissertate.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, April 27, 2008
    Today was a cross between working a lot (i.e. my epic six-hour Saturday class) and slacking off (a.k.a. playing around on the computer, surfing the internet and playing Civilization). In between the gainful employment and the fun, I did manage to read some more of Life & Times of Michael K, which is increasingly becoming one of my favorite Coetzee novels. It took me a while to get into the book -- like fifty or sixty pages -- but once it got going, I was swept up in the "Kafka meets Beckett in war-torn South Africa" feel of the narrative and have not wanted to put it down even when my eyelids drooped on me.

    So, it was a light-heavy day today and I'm not complaining.

    For tomorrow: Dissertate (which, after some reflection, I have decided does indeed sound better than "tate the disser," in case you were wondering).

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, April 22, 2008
    I'm still struggling a bit with the whole day-on/day-off schedule. Every "on" day tends to start like a Monday and end feeling like a Friday while each "off" day feels quite a bit like a Sunday. You know, the whole "I'm dreading tomorrow" feeling that comes over you on Sundays? Yeah, I get that, like, four days a week now.

    On the other hand, I have been fairly productive. I actually wrote about four pages on Monday and I read about a fifth of Life & Times of Michael K. today in addition to writing another page or so. I mean, each "off" day, since it feels like a Sunday, tends to carry with it a certain sense of immediacy, as if I'd slacked off all day Friday and all day Saturday and simple haveta get work done.

    I guess it has helped in that sense.

    So, yeah. I got quite a bit done today, which was nice. I spent the majority of the day alternating between reading and dozing off before finally settling in to write a bit on The Master of Petersburg in the early evening. My logic was this: normally, I find it difficult to read anything after I expend energy on writing, but I can usually read before writing without much difficulty. That and the fact that I really didn't feel like writing.

    The funny thing, though, is that I really, really got into Life & Times of Michael K. I got so into it, in fact, that I simply had to read more after I wrote for a few hours. Though I found the book a bit difficult to get into, I now classify it as an exemplary novel, the sort of book I would direct someone to if he or she wanted to know how to write a good book.

    So it was a good day.

    For tomorrow: Read another article.

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