Yay! My Coetzee review came out this Sunday, and I missed it. I have apparently lost the arcane
skill of finding the news in an actual paper–I didn’t see it in Sunday’s Inquirer!! Thank you, Inky, and fab editor John Timpane.
Here’s an excerpt:
In The Childhood of Jesus, his 12th novel, J.M. Coetzee presents a moral challenge to the West: Given the tension between faith and politics, we who equate faith with “extremism” should take a good, hard look in the mirror.
It’s a subtle tale about a hot-button topic: faith in a political system versus an essentially religious faith. The novel opens with the arrival of a man and a 5-year-old boy on the shores of Novilla, a placid, “bloodless” utopia where the inhabitants, all former refugees, have been “washed clean” of memories of their former lives..
Joyce Carol Oates wrote about the book at greater length in the New York Times Book Review. You gotta admire her. Of all the ridiculously smart people who wrote reviews, she was the only one to admit she didn’t really get what Coetzee was doing:
For a while I speculated that “The Childhood of Jesus” might be a novel of ideas in which the stillness of the Buddhist vision of enlightenment and the striving of Christian salvation are contrasted: the one essentially cyclical, the other “progressive.'”
Now that I look again at my own review, I want to change it: Well, but the characters who (apparently) represented religion WERE fanatical and extreme in their handling of the boy. Oh, well. It’s published. Can I be anything but happy about that?
Read any interesting book reviews lately? Anyone else find the NYTBR as entertaining as I do?