BRLP Book Six/Week Six:
If you're at the library searching for either a work of contemporary social critique or a fast-paced novel, you can do worse than to cross paths with Diary of a Bad Year, written by J.M. Coetzee. Most of its pages are divided into three sections, with short essays on contemporary issues (such as Guantanamo Bay, intelligent design, or The Seven Samurai and the origins of statehood) heading each page. The second third of each page forwards a story of the writer of these essays and his obsession with a woman he's hired as a typist, with the third section of the page devoted to the typist's discussion of this writer and his ideas with her lover.
These sections often don't fit neatly into the parts of the page devoted to them, so they sprawl onto subsequent pages, forcing some decisions by the reader as to how to read the book. Far too few books problematize the path through them, so there's an aspect of "Choose Your Own Adventure" to the work.
The author of the essays in the novel, like Coetzee, is a South African living in Australia; he earns the title Senor C as his typist early on mistakenly believes he's from South America. But while it's easy enough to see Coetzee himself as the "author of the essays," this complicates -- in an interesting way -- his being the subject of the third portion of the page. Add to this critiques and counter-arguements in that third portion of the issues addressed in the essays delivered above some pages behind, and that all of this inter-textuality and authorship-questioning is done in a serious and successful way (as opposed to, say, the metatextual gamesmanship of Robert Coover or John Barth late in the previous century).
Because DoaBY is a short at 231 pages, and because I'll be on vacation this weekend, I've pre-borrowed book seven -- the long(er)ish American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work by Nick Taylor. While I prickle a little bit at the double-colon in the title -- sentences, like people, should be limited to just one -- I'm interested enough in the WPA, FDR, and other TLAs* to put that aside. Our country once paid artists to make murals, writers to write, and teachers to teach and you know what? We spent our way out of a Depression. Might be a strategy to keep in mind
Page-to-Date BRLP page count: 1,824
Days-to-Date BRLP calendar count: 35 Days
Page-per-Date BRLP reading rate: 52.11