Nobel-winner Coetzee (Disgrace) ponders life, love and the mind/ body connection in his latest heavy-hitter; he also plays a little trick. When retired photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his lengthy, lonely recuperation forces him to reflect on a life he deems wasted. The gloom lifts with the arrival of brisk, efficient Marijana Jokic, his Croatian day nurse, with whom Paul becomes infatuated. (He also takes a special interest in Marijana's teenage boy—the son he never had.) It's here, while Paul frets over how to express his feelings, that Coetzee (perhaps unsure if his dithering protagonist can sustain the book) gets weird: the distinguished writer Elizabeth Costello, eponymous heroine of Coetzee's 2003 novel, comes for a visit. To Paul's bewilderment, Costello (Coetzee's alter ego?) exhorts him to become more of a main character in the narrative, even orchestrating events to force his reactions. Some readers will object to this cleverness and the abstract forays into the mysteriousness of the writing process. It is to Coetzee's credit, however, a testament to his flawless prose and appealing voice, that while challenging the reader with postmodern shenanigans, the story of how Paul will take charge of his life and love continues to engage, while Elizabeth Costello the device softens into a real character, one facing frailties of her own. She pushes Paul, or Paul pushes Elizabeth—both push Coetzee—on to the bittersweet conclusion.
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Is it the responsibility of Nobel Prize winners to showcase their brilliance or ensure a strong readership? If intelligent readers dont understand the author, whats the point? The Washington Post likened Slow Man to "an episode of The Twilight Zone by John Barth," with the feeling "that it means something important," even while this meaning remains elusive. Simply, Coetzees postmodern literary trick overwhelms what could have been a provoking rumination on love, old age, and life. Instead, the novel flounders under the weight of ambiguity, cerebral analysis, and lack of scintillating conversation and action. Even readers up for a challenge may be frustrated: it would be better for them to start with the award-winning Disgrace (1999).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Editorial Reviews
Coetzee is one of the finest writers of our time. To get the most from this novel, it's important to have read his others in the Elizabeth Costello series, but it's worthwhile for... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Frank
I picked up J.M. Coetzee's book "Slow Man" after seeing it appear on one of the older NY Times Notable Books lists. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Joseph Landes
Ah, finished! The book's ending caught me unawares. Though I'd checked several times I'd somehow misremembered the page count. I thought it was 487 pages long; it was 467. Read morePublished on March 28, 2013 by meeah
First, let me say that I regard J.M. Coetzee as one of the best craftsmen of literary fiction alive today. Read morePublished on July 5, 2012 by J. W. Bounds
By most accounts J.M. Coetzee has lived a reclusive life, so it's not a surprise that his novel "Slow Man", a solemn reflection on isolation and decline, unfolds with natural and... Read morePublished on May 25, 2012 by John Van Wagner
Coetzee's Slow Man starts off like it title, slow. For the first twenty or so pages, the reader many wonder where this rather prosaic story is going. Read morePublished on October 6, 2011 by Eric Maroney
A wonderful book unlike Coetzee's other novels. Even after two Bookers awards and the Nobel prize he is still taking his craft to new levels.Published on February 28, 2011 by fishmb
This is my first Coetzee book and I'm not sure I should have started with it. It begins beautifully, with a dramatic life changing accident described with sparse, clear, and... Read morePublished on July 4, 2010 by Abeer Y. Hoque
It's much too "post-metafictional" for me, this Elizabeth Costello character who knows everything about our main character. Read morePublished on April 13, 2010 by Marianne