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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Diary of a Bad Year

J.M. Coetzee should have titled this one "Diary of a Very Bad Book" if he wanted to give readers a true indication of what is in store for anyone who reads it because it is nothing more than Coetzee's very thinly veiled excuse to proclaim his hatred and contempt for the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, and American society, in general. In a time when little more is required to win a Nobel Prize than to express contempt for each of those subjects, it is not surprising that Coetzee would write a book like this one for those who feel as he does. But anyone expecting a novel of quality from J.M. Coetzee is probably a few books too late and should not waste time with Diary of a Bad Year.

The premise of the book finds a German publisher seeking strong opinions from a group of literature's elder statesmen, all of which are to be published in a single volume. Coetzee creates a stand-in for himself, a South African author now living in Australia, and calls him "Senor C." Each page of the book is rather neatly divided into three sections. The upper one-third of each page in the book contains one of Coetzee-C's "strong opinions," usually on politics and usually a rant against something American. The middle third of each page is written from "C's" point-of-view and involves his relationship with the young lady he has become smitten with as she types up his rants. The bottom third of each page is written from the point-of-view of the young woman and often describes the exact scene just seen earlier from "C's" vantage point.

Coetzee had the makings of a dull little novel going with the second two-thirds of each page but even that was ruined by his childish rants on the upper part of each page. Never offering alternatives to any of the things he so despises, and actually doing little more than name-calling, ends up making Coetzee look like a simpleton who is filled more with hate than writing talent. Whatever he was aiming for, if it was more than an excuse to ridicule those he despises, he missed by a wide margin. This one is so bad that I suspect it will be the worst book I read in 2008.

Do yourself a favor and avoid Diary of a Bad Year.

Rated at: 0.5
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