My Book world
Coetzee relates the story of an aging author dying of cancer who hires an attractive young woman in his building to do typing for him. In the evenings the woman relates to her boyfriend what the developing book is like. She also engages in dialogue with the author concerning his strong opinions (also the title of the book). At some point the boyfriend becomes the author’s accountant and devises a failproof plan to cheat the author out of his estate at the time of his death.
What makes this simple plot compelling is Coetzee’s structure: the top third of each page is assigned to fragments from the fictional author’s essays. A middle portion of the page, usually quite slim, is a continuing dialog between the author and the typist, where he discovers she isn’t only pretty but smart as well. The bottom section of each page portrays the relationship between the typist and her boyfriend. At least, in theory, one may read all three parts separately, from front to back because Coetzee presents them as three distinct but interrelated stories. However, I mostly read the book conventionally, attempting to keep each of the threads separately yet trying, at the same time, to see how the three threads related to one another.
This novel is a fascinating read mostly because of the structure. If Coetzee had given the book a more traditional approach with alternating chapters or sections, it might have been a different book indeed, though I cannot predict how. Such is the alchemy of fine writing by a fine author.
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