Sobriquet 39.1

Having gone to bed somewhat later than I would have liked yesterday night, I woke up at six this morning with the sort of displaced resentment only possible when you blame a work schedule you willingly accepted for your own poor time management. Hearing the grains of ice tinkle against my window reminded me to check if we'd gotten a snow day, but there was nothing listed on the college's website. Disappointed, I putzed around for the next hour or so, checking email and reading news stories. As 7:20--the absolute latest time I feel comfortable leaving the house for work--neared, I sought something, anything to procrastinate just a tiny bit more. So I checked the college's website a second time.

And lo and behold, there it was, in red letters: no school.

I got myself a snow day!

And this was the best possible day for a snow day, too. Mid-week snow days are nice surprises, but lack the added oomph of a weekend-extending snow day. Mondays are nice to have off, but those Monday-extended weekends never feel long because you only find out that you're off after you've already spent all day Sunday believing that you have work or go to school the next day...but Fridays...the moment you learn that you're off on Friday, you have a three-day weekend ahead of you.

Mighty pleased, I was. This little bit of frozen serendipity made it possible for me to get a few more hours of sleep so that I could write a bit more of the dissertation in addition to reading the article I'd assigned myself for the day. Again, I can't say I am terribly pleased with the quality of my dissertation...I seem to have some weird, unrealistic and unreachable ideal in mind for it...but I am pleased that I have written as much as I have. If my supervisor approves of it, even with a few suggestions, I think I will be quite satisfied.

At any rate, I read Rachel Lawlan's "The Master of Petersburg: Confession and Double Thoughts in Coetzee and Dostoyevsky," an essay examining, among other things, literature as a counterhistorical narrative, aspects of confessional literature, and the intertextual relationship Coetzee cultivates with Dostoyevsky. Over the past few days, I also read Stephen Watson's "The Writer and the Devil: J.M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg," Gerald Gaylard's "Mastering Arachnophobia: The Limits of Self-Reflexivity in African Fiction," and T. Kai Norris Easton's "Text and Hinterland: J. M. Coetzee and the South African Novel." As is common with many Coetzee scholars, both Easton and Gaylard evaluate The Master of Petersburg as in relation to specifically (South) African fiction while Watson and Lawlan look more closely at the themes of authorship in the novel.

Without dwelling too much on any one essay that I have read, I have to say I am both disappointed by the extreme lengths to which some critics go to include a political discussion in every Coetzee novel as well as pleased to see the variety of reasonable readings of The Master of Petersburg, especially those which, like Watson's, provide extended considerations of the act of writing.

With my free time, I watched Population 436, a wholly mediocre "thriller" featuring a surprisingly competent Fred Durst in one of the lead roles. Although I appreciate the unhappy ending of the film, I wasn't terribly engrossed by how the movie takes an idea that is only marginally interesting and, with a sub-stellar cast and average writing, makes a moderately entertaining, ultimately forgettable "thriller" about a town of religious fanatics. But, hey, free time is free time, innit?

For tomorrow: Read another essay or write a bit more.

Works Cited

Gaylard, Gerald. "Mastering Arachnophobia: The Limits of Self-Reflexivity in African Fiction." The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 37.1 (2002): 85-99.

Lawlan, Rachel. "The Master of Petersburg: Confession and Double Thoughts in Coetzee and Dostoyevsky." ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 29.2 (1998): 131-157.

Norris Easton, T. Kai. "Text and Hinterland: J. M. Coetzee and the South African Novel." Journal of Southern African Studies 21.4 (1995): 585-599.

Watson, Steven. "'The Writer and the Devil': J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg." New Contrast 22.4 (1994): 47-61.


minxy said…
If all else fails, you could always be a movie critic. You can certainly write in that movie-critic style.

"...pleased to see the variety of reasonable readings of The Master of Petersburg..."

Does this mean you're not finding a lot of people coining their own terms in order to say that the dog was speaking? :) If so, I'd say yay for reason because that whole dog talking thing was really kind of ridiculous.
her said…
well, it's certainly heartening that someone is reading something i've written and it's not just rotting on the shelf...

i suppose i'm a little pissed off if i'm to be included in either of your silos - the people who write about the political ramifications (or not) of what coetzee writes, or the literary vacuum of the whole ethics of authorship thing... if conceived of as an an entirely literary pursuit.

where's the overlap?

surely there is one? maybe you disagree... but this is what i've always liked about coetzee: he absolutely refuses to be put in a silo, that's the whole power of his writing - he's a contrary bastard, and entirely immune to categorisation (or at least he used to be: i'm not so sure post-apartheid - - it's all gone a bit gordimer for me)
glad you're reading around it, for he is one of the very best of the best (imho, of course) - long live coetzee!
Actually, if this is Dr. Lawlan I am responding to, I can assure you that "Double Thoughts" would not end up in either silo. In fact, I found it to be one of the more helpful essays I read regarding The Master of Petersburg.

I agree with you that Coetzee's adamantine refusal to be pigeonholed is one of the most impressive and powerful aspects of his fiction.

I have to admit, though, that I am particularly fond of the post-Apartheid work. Not that I don't enjoy the earlier texts, but still...


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