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11 November 2006

DISGRACE, J. M. Coetzee

A short pre-review here. Nothing serious. I'm on p 47 of this novel (it's already Chapter 6) and suddenly the way Coetzee narrates his tale of a post-age-50s lust for simple sex and one attractive student . . . well what is left out in terms of the exposed profs inner turmoil is too much like adventure pop lit which hops from scene to scene without getting into a character's consciousness. I may go to the shelf with Nabakov's Lolita and re-read that novel instead.

Canadian poet Dennis Lee didn't turn me on with a secondhand collection I ordered from Alberta: Riffs. That surprised me. So I continue to 'give the guy a chance'. I found the childrens book he did the poems for: The Ice Cream Store, illustrated by David McPhail. For me, and most children I can imagine, the poems and pictures jump around too much, from this to that. Too many of them for a solid kids lit title.

There are 3 types of poems with illustrations in The Ice Cream Store that I do like, some I think could grow on anyone who repeats the words aloud a few times. The poems that seem to be 'D. L. does Mother Goose', in other words, completely derivative poems; poems that use the sounds of towns, countries and cities (or make words up) to evoke sharp, soft or watery sound-images; and third, poems that are acts of complete innovative creation, poems unlike any other kids poems.

The notes and credits for Riffs (Brick Books, 1993) do not mention The Ice Cream Store (HarperCollins Alligor Press imprint, 1991) although the latter won some prestige in its genre. The Ice Cream Store could have been 3 or 4 award-winning titles in the hands of a good editor and through more work on themes and illustration on the part of the McPhail - Lee team. Surely it wasn't a potboiler for both of them? But without a theme, the best parts are easily forgotten.

That brings me back to Coetzee. The best parts so far were in the beginning. On p 47 it speeds up too much with no depth. Will the book redeem itself if I read on into the night?

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