Month: September 2011

Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

Disgrace – J. M. Coetzee


I got this at regular price back in college. I bought it even if I found the cover unappealing: a stray dog on a barren dirt road. I am not into judging books by their covers, but nice covers sometimes help. It’s hard not to be drawn to a book with a sleek cover design.

Oh yes, this novel is a Booker winner. The author is a Nobel laureate. The author is among the top authors who have the most number of books in that 1001 list. With all these, expectations are raised notches higher.

And yes, Disgrace is agreed to be his best work. How did his best work fit into my reading taste?

The Rhapsody

Disgrace lives up to its title: it is a disgrace to the author’s supposed reputation. That’s straight enough, I think, but really, I am in no mood to talk about this book because I remember nothing good about it.

Some things first. This is the only novel of Coetzee that I have read. I think it will be the last one as well. No doubt, he writes beautiful sentences. It’s just that I don’t like him. His words fail to captivate my attention.

Actually, Coetzee’s concern for animals is endearing. I think this is one of his major causes. He even integrated this in his novel. You see, it’s not only the book cover that has a dog in it. The other half of it is teeming with dogs.

Which is not to say that I don’t like dogs. Okay, so let’s talk about the novel itself. Disgrace is about this professor who carelessly goes into an affair with a student. The object of the liaison comes from a rather influential family, so our disgraced professor is chucked out from the university.

He then lives with his estranged daughter in a rural backdrop, and the two are disgraced again. How? The unattractive and tomboyish daughter is raped and his father, our protagonist, could not do anything about it.

Then silence. And then the dogs. The father starts looking after the dogs in the dog pound. Or is it a dog clinic? And I don’t recall how it ended. I don’t even care.

You see, I cannot find anything to attach myself with this supposedly grand novel. I think something is wrong. I think I just didn’t get it. So when I checked for the novel’s reception, it’s supposed to portray the modern South Africa. Nice, but I don’t even know what South Africa was before. I have an idea what apartheid is, but really, that is just some strange, distant thing if you are in a country where there is only one color.

I think this book explores the problems of communication between father and daughter. Yes, they found themselves in the most unfortunate situation. But isn’t communicating your thoughts and feelings always a good starting point to come up with a resolution? Yes, the daughter was raped. Yes, the father was helplessly assaulted. Do I smell crushed egos getting in the way? Pride as well?

Why is it so hard to swallow something so tasteless?

2 star - it was okFinal Notes

Oh, I remember just now that I can still give Coetzee another chance. I have yet to find a copy of his other famous work, Life and Times of Michael K. I hope that one would redeem the author from the slight disappointment that I had with Disgrace.

Or maybe I could just lower my expectations even just a bit? I can’t really help it though, especially in the case of Nobel laureates.

The Nobel Prize for Literature is the ultimate award that a writer can get his hands on. But yes, this prize is also one of the most controversial. The winners are almost always unknown in a worldwide scale. There have been accusations that the prize favors European writers, but what the hey, the Nobel remains as it is: a prestigious award. It adds a sense of importance to the person whom the award is given to, and we could not really do much about it except trust that the people behind the Nobel are doing a brilliant job.

Quarterly Rhapsody: Book Lists

Quarterly RhapsodyThere’s a list for almost everything. There are lists about the best movies, the best tourist destinations, the best of anything, general interests, eccentric interests, and yes, lists on our beloved books.

What are these lists for anyway? For one, I could say that these lists are out there for recommendations. A reader who’s looking out to venture to new genres could pore through these book lists. In this aspect, book lists can help in increasing the reading activities of a person.

And then, lists bring about healthy, although verbally violent, debates. Which books deserve to make it? Which books should be dropped? Which writer should have a prominent number of works in a list?

These debates call for an understanding of what makes a book really worth it. Is it the style? The plot? The techniques employed? The theme? The appeal to the reading masses? The overall effect? Everything comes into play, so coming up with a list of the top books is a herculean task.

I am a huge fan of book lists. If you haven’t noticed yet, I am collecting nine lists: five award winners and four top 100 lists. There are more lists out there than the ones I am collecting, but if I try to collect all of them, I am afraid I will not achieve my goal of reading all the books in my lists.

Let’s take the 1001 list. The number itself is staggering. If you are a speed reader, fine, go ahead and pursue the goal of reading all the books. The problem is, the list changes every certain number of years. Another one is that the books in the list are not always available. They might even be out of print. So what do we do?

Take only what your cup could hold. I know I can’t read all those books, so I’ll settle for my nine selected lists. It’s not a list I could truly call my own, but what the hey, don’t all these lists belong to someone else?

Which brings me to another point. The book group that I am a member of is recently tackling the task of listing its own 100 best novels. Unfortunately, you have yours truly to blame for this idea.

As one member said, this is an exciting endeavor because it will reflect our literary taste as a group. But coming up with the list that will represent the group’s reading choise is not an easy task. I have made my proposals. I thought of allowing participating members to submit their top books that are ranked in order. Points are given to a book depending on its rank.

However, the pointing system is not foolproof. Think of this: if three members rank Twilight as their number one book, this would be a huge advantage, or disadvantage if you’d like to look at it that way. I am looking at it the latter way. Anyway, another proposed to quash the pointing system to eliminate the complications it brings. Still, another proposed to vote ten members that will come up with an initial list which the members will vote on.

And that’s not all, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered. The genres, the language, the book’s period of publication, et al. Whew. This is proving to be a big, hard, exciting, and endearing task.

I don’t know yet if our group’s goal of coming up our 100 best novels will push through or not. We just started talking about it yesterday. I hope though that it will.

Wide Open – Nicola Barker

Wide Open - Nicola Barker

Wide Open - Nicola Barker

Who bought it: Me.

What is it: Looks like a small town novel that casts a girl with freaky organs. Middlesex, anyone? Besides, the title and book cover of clams wide open are hinting at something sexual.

When: September 3, 2011

Where: Book Sale – Edsa Central

Why: It’s an IMPAC winner. The blurb boasts of having beaten Cunningham, Morrison, and Roth. But really, I don’t know who Barker is.

How much: Php 75.00

True History Of The Kelly Gang – Peter Carey

True History Of The Kelly Gang - Peter Carey

True History Of The Kelly Gang - Peter Carey

Date Started: September 26, 2011. 11:10 PM.

I am seriously reluctant to read this, but what the hey, I think I should start disciplining myself. I keep making all these reading plans and I should only follow them so as not to waste the effort put in plotting those plans.

So what do I think? Yes the book is a burden because it reads like this the thoughts jump from this and that point it is hard to follow the text really. But I have been warned; the first sentence is in the back blurb. Ned Kelly, anyone?

I do now know him. I just know his name. Call me a loser, but I’m going there. I think this would be a nice, if not an easy, read.

White Teeth – Zadie Smith

White Teeth - Zadie Smith

White Teeth - Zadie Smith

Who bought it: Me.

What is it: The blurb doesn’t give much away. A family saga spanning three generations. Three themes: friendship, love, war. And three cultures.

When: September 3, 2011

Where: Meet up with Jasper of

Why: It’s listed in Time’s Top 100. And the title intrigues me. White teeth are one of my frustrations. I have crooked, braced, not so white teeth. But I don’t think that this is about literal white teeth. I am just saying.

How much: Php 300.00

(Image courtesy of