Sunday, March 13, 2011

Disgrace, A Second Chance

Do you ever read a novel by a new author, find you don't like it and then don't bother with any more of his or her work?  I generally do.  It's not the same as reading a tried and true author and finding they've written a bomb.  You generally forgive  the disappointment knowing they are capable of better work.  When I was with my first book club we read Slow Man by J M Coetzee, it was a slow novel and I didn't see the point in it.  Coetzee has several novels on the 1001 list but so far I've bypassed them in favour of something else, Slow Man being too recent a disappointment for me.

However, I bought some books in a book sale last week and one of them was Disgrace by J M Coetzee.  I liked the cover and on reading that the edition was printed to celebrate the centenary of Harvill Secker and is only one of 250, 000 copies, and because this title is on the 1001 list, I thought I would give him a second chance - and I am so pleased I did - I can't put it down.  It's not long, only about 215 pages, but it's so concisely written and touches on so much emotion in so few words, it's brilliant.  Set in South Africa, the premise is about an aging University Professor who's a bit of a Casanova with the some of the young students.  He takes things too far and a student complains which leads to his resignation - a choice he takes rather than apologising for what he feels are his animal desires and which he doesn't want to keep in check. To avoid living amongst the scandal he decides to visit his daughter who lives on a small farm with boarding kennels.  They seems to connect quite well and he helps with the selling of the farm produce and looking after the dogs until one day they are savagely beaten and robbed by two black men and a boy....... His daughter had sold some of her land to a black man called Petrus who has also helped on her farm, but he is no-where to be found on the day of the attack, and  the professor thinks this is far too convenient.  Anger begins to well in him for what has been done to his daughter. This  novel is stark and brutal, but amazingly written.

I wonder if I should give William S Burroughs a scond chance??? Nah, I think I'll pass on that one!!

I finished Something Wicked This Way Comes and it was followed by a brilliant short story called A Sound of Thunder.  It's a sort of 'butterfly effect' warning about a time travel company that can take you back in time to hunt dinosaurs.  The only proviso is that you stay on the designated path and only shoot the marked dinosaurs as they would have died within the hunting time-frame anyway so that the delicate balance of cause and effect will not be disturbed.  Eckels, one of the hunters, however ignores the warning and on returning to the time capsule he steps off the path and crushes a butterfly........ it was really good.  I remember seeing some sort of movie with really bad special effects that was based on this. 

Now I'm listening to 20, 000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne and I'm sad to say I'm not enjoying it as much as Around the World in 80 Days or Journey to the Centre of the Earth.  So far, it doesn't have the fun factor that the other two have.  It's being narrated by Harlan Ellison who wrote Demon with a Glass Hand (which was the inspiration for Terminator) but he sounds like Bosley from Charlie's Angels which is putting me off a little bit!

Anyhooo, I'm in the mood for horror lately so I've just downloaded Robert Bloch's Psycho, and will try to get that listened to (along with Austen's Northanger Abbey) before bookclub next week!

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