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Christopher Culver RSS Feed (Cluj-Napoca, Romania or Helsinki, Finland)

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The Cambridge Introduction to Samuel Beckett (Cambridge Introductions to Literature)
The Cambridge Introduction to Samuel Beckett (Cambridge Introductions to Literature)
Price: $14.60

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Because McDonald expects the reader to have already read most of Beckett's work, this does not serve as a good intro, January 27, 2016
In this book, part of a series of Cambridge Introductions to various literary figures, Ronan McDonald aims to familiarize readers with Samuel Beckett's life and work in about 150 pages. The most helpful part of the book is the first two chapters, which consist of a short biography and a discussion of the cultural and intellectual context in which Beckett worked.

Unfortunately, after that, McDonald explains that he expects readers to have already read all of Beckett's major works before coming to this book. As a result, this volume is no longer a convenient introduction to Beckett for readers who know little about him. The second part of the book consists only of McDonald's examination of various facets of the plays (mainly "Waiting for Godot", "Endgame" and the radio plays) and novels ("Watt", "Murphy", the Trilogy) that will prove utterly opaque to anyone who hasn't already spent a great deal of time reading and thinking about Beckett. What was the Cambridge University Press editor thinking? Because McDonald chose to make this book more a companion to Beckett than an introduction to him, the book ends up competing with – and losing to – more ample works like The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett and Hugh Kenner's classic A Reader's Guide to Samuel Beckett.

Furthermore, these “Cambridge Introduction to X” volumes typically end with a survey of scholarship on the writer in question, but McDonald decides to limit his comments to English-language scholarship. That does readers a real disservice, because so much of Beckett’s reception and influence has been in France and Germany. All in all, I cannot find any reason to recommend this.

Elliott Carter Studies (Cambridge Composer Studies)
Elliott Carter Studies (Cambridge Composer Studies)
by Marguerite Boland
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $109.99
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wide-ranging collection of papers on Carter's music (almost his entire career), of interest to academics and layman fans alike, January 27, 2016
This entry in the Cambridge Composer Studies series dedicated to Elliott Carter was published in 2012, when Carter was already 103 years old and still making music. However, the editors knew that Carter's celebrated longevity wouldn't last forever, and so this volume mainly assumes that it was time to take stock of his output. Indeed, Carter died before the year was up, so this book almost manages to follow on his entire career.

The fourteen contributions here come from a number of scholars both well-known and budding, and they cover many different facets of Carter's music. Jonathan W. Bernard surveys Carter's early, neoclassical phase, defends it as a worthy body of work, and points to some features more advanced than in his American contemporaries' music. Carter's "late music", i.e. from the 1980s on, is the topic of a couple of chapters: John Link offers a general survey, while John Roeder shows how Carter's late music with its cheerfully coexisting instrumental lines reflects a vision of human cooperation.

Certain of Carter's pieces get an in-depth look here: the Boston Concerto and ASKO Concerto (Marguerite Boland), the string quartets (Dörte Schmidt), the Symphonia (Arnold Whittall), the soloist+ensemble concertos of the composer's final two decades (Stephen Heinemann), and the Three Illusions (Max Noubel). Andrew Mead's contribution "Rhythm as a formal determinant in certain works of Elliott Carter" abounds with analysis of the String Quartet No. 1, "Esprit rude/esprit doux", the Two Diversions, Oboe Concerto, Triple Duo, and more.

Two of the chapters here examine Carter's sketches, which the composer has donated over the years and are now spread over several archives. Felix Meyer looks at Carter's preparatory work for a Sonatina for Oboe and Harpsichord, a work commissioned just as his style was changing in the 1940s, but which was never completed. Stephen Sonderberg describes the sketches held by the Library of Congress, which reflect Carter's output from 1932 to 1971.

Some of the papers are dedicated to the relationship between music and text in Carter's vocal music, namely Guy Capuzzo's paper on text, music and irony in "What Next?" (Capuzzo had already written a monograph on the opera), Annette van Dyck-Hemming on Carter's little-known early work "The Defense of Corinth", and Brenda Ravenscroft on Carter's song cycles.

While the Cambridge Composer Studies series is a scholarly endeavour and the contributions here assume a rigorous understanding of music theory, this collection will prove worthwhile for many layman readers who are Carter fans, not just academics. Certainly Whittall's contribution on Carter's take on thematicism, which examines the woodwind solos in the Symphonia, has helped me enjoy that vast work even more.

The Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible (Cambridge Film Classics)
The Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible (Cambridge Film Classics)
by David Sterritt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $41.09
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2.0 out of 5 stars As an introduction to Godard's long career, this book can't hold a candle to Richard Brody's later survey, January 23, 2016
In this entry in the Cambridge Film Classics series, David Sterritt attempts to survey the work of the French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard up to the book's publication in 1999 (Godard has produced a number of films in the years since). However, Godard's work was so prodigious that Sterrit decided to focus only on six films as representative of his whole career. These are "À bout de souffle", "Vivre sa vie", "Weekend", "Numéro deux", "Hail Mary", and "Nouvelle Vague". A final chapter is dedicated to Godard's several works for television and video, which remain little-known.

This book left me with mixed feelings. As an attempt to cover Godard's entire career, this book is much less effective than the survey by Richard Brody that was published a decade later, Everything is Cinema, which actually does manage to cover all of Godard's films to date instead of trying to make a representative selection, and in such a clear and enjoyable style that the much greater length of Brody's book still goes by more quickly than Sterritt's 300-odd pages. With his page limitations, Sterritt just couldn't produce the same comprehensive introduction.

Also, Sterritt's book all too often interrupts a clear description and convincing analysis of Godard's work to reference postmodern writers for academic street cred. I don't feel that his citations of Kristeva and Lacan bring anything to Godard's work. And finally, Godard's work since the mid-1960s has contained an enormous amount of quotation, and Sterritt doesn't get it all. He is baffled by the drummer singing a paean to the "ancient ocean" in WEEKEND, unaware that it is drawn from the Comte de Lautréamont's LES CHANTS DE MALDOROR. A knowledge of the French canon is essential towards getting the most out of Godard's work and relating it to a general audience, but Sterritt apparently lacks that grounding in French culture (most of his published work is on English and American films).

Still, there *may* be enough material here to make the book worthwhile for Godard fans who have already read Brody's book. I like how Sterritt chooses "Numéro deux" – still a shocking achievement today and woefully underappreciated – as an important cornerstone of Godard's career. The chapter on the television and video efforts is also welcome, as while Godard's 1970s experiments are now easier to get ahold of thanks to the internet, those interested in Godard will appreciate a description of this body of work before dedicating themselves to, say, the 312 minutes of "France/tour/détour/deux/enfants".

The Music of Toru Takemitsu (Music in the Twentieth Century)
The Music of Toru Takemitsu (Music in the Twentieth Century)
by Peter Burt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $74.99
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5.0 out of 5 stars Covers Takemitsu's entire "serious" output (not the film scores or songs) with in-depth analysis in an accessible style, January 23, 2016
This book by Peter Burt was first published in 2001 is, so far, the best survey of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu's work, from Takemitsu's first forays into composition in the 1940s to his untimely death in 1996. Takemitsu had his fingers in many pies, and he composed a great deal of film scores (some of which are classics of the genre) and songs of the glee club or barbershop quartet variety (which are dreadful), but Burt focuses solely on his music for the concert hall, whether chamber, or orchestral.

While written in an admirably accessible tone, this is a scholarly work of musicology and assumes that the reader has training in music theory. The book abounds with samples from Takemitsu's scores as it reveals what makes his music tick. Burt's survey is chronological and divides the book into chapters that cover successive phases of Takemitsu career, such as the early years of the Jikken Kobo experimental workshop, his first successes in the late 1950s with the "Requiem" and other works, his discovery of John Cage and reconciliation to his own Japanese heritage, his "modernist apogee" of the late 1960s and early 1970s, his subsequent turn towards a more conventional tonality, and his late works that evince a refining of a rather singleminded style. Nonetheless, Burt traces much of Takemitsu's development as a gradual evolution instead of any sudden breaks, and he points out distinctive stylistic concerns that appeared through Takemitsu's career. A final chapter is dedicated to Takemitsu's general philosophy.

As a fan of Takemitsu, I greatly appreciate this book for covering nearly every serious piece from Takemitsu. I've read and re-read it over the last decade, whenever grappling with some particular Takemitsu work, and Burt's writing has either expanded my appreciation, or help me better articulate why the given piece doesn't work for me.

The Sign and the Seal
The Sign and the Seal
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4.0 out of 5 stars Seeking to join his rhythmic explorations with preexisting traditions, Coleman and company collaborate with an Afrocuban group, January 17, 2016
This review is from: The Sign and the Seal (Audio CD)
The saxophonist Steve Coleman began his career as band leader in the 1980s among a scene of African-American creative figures from New York known as the M-Base movement, which mixed contemporary urban trends with the jazz tradition. It took a long time for Coleman to establish a mature style, but by the early 1990s his proficiency with intricate time signatures and interlocking structures finally came together. Coleman wasn't content to play this cerebral but incredibly engaging music as something abstract, however. He became increasingly interested in how his playing might join with the musics of the African diaspora and mystical traditions from around the world. His 1996 effort THE SIGN AND THE SEAL is one of the first releases where this global engagement shines brightly.

In January 1996, Coleman flew to Havana for ten days to record this disc with AfroCuba de Matanzas, a Cuban troupe that seeks to maintain the West African musical traditions brought to the island with slavery. They are primarily singers and percussionists, which we can hear on this disc, but they also include dancers, which sadly we miss out on with this audio-only experience. Traveling with Coleman (alto sax) was an ensemble of some of his handpicked musicians, this time under the name The Mystic Rhythm Society: Ravi Coltrane (tenor sax), Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Andy Milne (piano), Anthony Tidd (bass) and Gene Lake (drums), plus the rapper Kokayi with whom Coleman made several collaborations at the time.

The vocals are generally chanted in a rather strident tone by a single singer who changes from song to song. Some tracks are sung in Yoruban (a language of Nigeria), and others in Spanish. However, underscoring how African traditions were brought not just to Cuba but also to other parts of Latin America, a couple of songs are in Portuguese. The playing of Coleman's band is not traditional jazz with a head and solos. Rather, it joins with the AfroCuba players into a rhythmic vortex where everyone does his own thing. Coleman is the most prominent voice in front of the percussion backdrop, with Coltrane and Alessi also given the chance to stand out. Tidd and Milne play what are very much supporting roles, low in the mix and playing comparatively simpler material. All of the forces come together to form a powerful whole in several tracks, especially "The Seal (Elekotó for Agayú)" and "Secretos de Abacuá".

Not all of the tracks make a convincing union between the jazz musicians and AfroCuba de Matanzas. Also, I'm not entirely happy with Kokayi's rapping, which is the tiresome theme of braggadocio, i.e. rapping about being a good rapper. Still, there is some great music here and the record is always enjoyable to listen straight through. Also, it must be emphasized that this is not just a bit of World Music crossover gimmickry for commercial gain: Coleman's wide-ranging curiosity is always palpable.

Presocratic Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction
Presocratic Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction
by Catherine Osborne
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.71
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Offers some fresh insights often missing from other introductions, but this approach doesn't work at the set page constraints, January 16, 2016
This entry in Oxford University Press's series of "Very Short Introductions" aims give readers an overview in 168 pages of the Presocratics, the philosophers of the Greek-speaking world who lived before Socrates and were among the first to note down musings on the nature of reality and the physical makeup of the universe. In chapters dedicated slightly more to general themes than to individual thinkers, Catherine Osborne presents some of the major contributions that they made to philosophy: the theory that everything is made of tiny bits called atoms, the famous paradox of Zeno and the tortoise, and the puzzle of how any change or development is possible if reason leads us to conclude that the universe is unchanging.

Two things make this book stand out in popular introductions to the subject, revealing the Presocratics in a different light than I got in an undergraduate philosophy course years ago. The first is that Osborne underlines how their writings have not come down to us in full, but rather as fragmentary manuscripts and quoted snippets in other ancient sources, which requires scholars to do a great deal of interpretation and guesswork, and it also means that our understanding of their thought can change when new papyri are discovered. She uses Empedocles and an archaeological discovery in the 1990s as an example of this changing view. The second fresh concern of Osborne's work is to overturn the traditional presentations of the Presocratics as a straight line of development and progress, as it is unknown if they even actually read each other, and so we shouldn't think that each Presocratic figure was responding specifically to one before him.

Some Very Short Introduction titles are accessible to a practically universal audience. Though Osborne tries to avoid excessive jargon, her particular way of reiterating the Presocratics' arguments assumes that the reader already has at least some background in philosophy. The author also clearly ran up against the space constraints of the Very Short Introduction series, and the approach she chooses ends up feeling curiously cut off at the knees within a mere 168 pages. Thus, while the fresh aspects of Osborne's presentation mentioned above are worth getting, the reader may well find another, less straitjacketed introduction more fulfilling. For what it is worth, Osborne does provide a Further Reading section at the end of this book.

Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science
Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science
by Alan D. Sokal
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.91
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The authors, self-identified leftists, bemoan bad science not just because it is fallacious, but because it hurts the cause, January 16, 2016
Alan Sokal is an American physicist who became well-known far beyond his field of the sciences and his own country for a 1996 prank. Disturbed by how many postmodern philosophers of the late 20th century were sprinkling their work with scientific jargon without even understanding the terms and concepts they cited, he wrote a bit of deliberate nonsense entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", submitted it to the journal Social Text, and then revealed the hoax after the journal had printed it as legitimate scholarship.

He followed up in 1997 with this book written in collaboration with the French scientist Jean Bricmont, where the duo examine specific scientific-sounding passages in the works of various philosophers and explain why they are fallacious at best, outright nonsense at worst. The English translation appeared a year later under the title FASHIONABLE NONSENSE in the USA and INTELLECTUAL IMPOSTURES in the UK. The English translation is generally a straightforward one, but it lacks a chapter on Henri Bergson's misunderstanding of the theory of relativity, taken up by some of his successors, which Sokal and Bricmont felt was of marginal interest to readers outside France.

Most of the chapters focus on a specific philosopher and his or her abuse of scientific terminology and concepts: Jacques Lacan (who claimed to integrate topology and other mathematics into psychoanalysis), Julia Kristeva (who misuses set theory and other mathematical concepts), Luce Irigaray (who claimed that fluid mechanics has been ignored in physics because it is "feminine", and she shows a misunderstanding of fluid mechanics to boot), Jean Baudrillard ("a profusion of scientific terms, used with total disregard for their meaning"), Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (ditto), and Paul Virillio (a confusion of the concepts of velocity and acceleration, two things that any undergraduate physics course would distinguish).

Other chapters, on the other hand, are dedicated to certain issues that are found so widely across contemporary philosophy that they are worth examining as a general societal problem, not just a loopy passage in one scholar's work. Thus Sokal and Bricmont describe how philosophers have taken Gödel's theorem, set theory, and chaos theory and run with them, either misunderstanding these concepts or failing to show how they are relevant for their own particular fields like psychoanalysis or literary theory. A chapter is also dedicated to epistemic relativism, because in the late 20th-century English-speaking academic circles where the particular French philosophers critiqued here proved popular, epistemic relativism was often found as well. As an appendix, Sokal's famous hoax article "Transgressing the Boundaries" is reprinted in full, followed by a breakdown of all the nonsense and irrelevant citations from which he wove the text.

Throughout the book, Sokal (presumably it was mainly him writing these passages) identifies as a member of the political Left and does not want his critique of French Leftist philosophers to be seen as a rightist screed. Sokal isn't just bothered by misunderstandings of science because he is a scientist, he is also worried about their political consequences for a more equitable world. He doesn't see how epistemic relativism can help empower the oppressed, citing a statement by Alan Ryan: "It is, for instance, pretty suicidal for embattled minorities to embrace Michel Foucault, let alone Jacques Derrida. The minority view was always that power could be undermined by truth... Once you read Foucault as saying that truth is simply an effect of power, you’ve had it."

All in all, I found this an engaging call for modern thinkers to take the insights of physics and other sciences more seriously. My only reservation is that I suspect that the authors missed the point of Deleuze and Guattari. They never consider, for example, the role of play in their approach to philosophy, which might lack the scientific rigor that Sokal and Bricmont want, but which nonetheless captures something very special about the human condition.

MANOURY: 60th Parallel
MANOURY: 60th Parallel
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting music (lots of electronics) and libretto (on contemporary culture and globalization), but frustrating on this disc, January 10, 2016
This review is from: MANOURY: 60th Parallel (Audio CD)
In the 1980s and 1990s, the French composer Philippe Manoury was closely involved with IRCAM, working together with computer scientists like Miller Puckette in creating software that could follow an individual performer in triggering electronic parts. His opera "60e Parallele" (1995/96) exploits electronics to the max, but it also reveals a sense of humour and a social consciousness that one might not have expected from this composer. This Naxos recording captures the work's premiere in Paris in 1997, where only the applause at the end reveals that it was a live recording. David Robertson conducts the Orchestre de Paris.

Written to a libretto by the playwright Michel Deutsche, "60e Parallele" was one of the first operas of globalization. Its setting is an airport, where (as a loudspeaker voice annouces at the beginning) flights are delayed due to bad weather. Among the various stranded passengers, individual dramas play out. The Yugoslavian war criminal Wim is passing through, notices a nemesis of his named Uwe who has compromising documents, and is in turn noticed by the agent Rudy (bass baritone) who intends on arresting him. An adult woman (mezzo-soprano) makes a lesbian advance at a younger girl (soprano) that she's accompanying to Miami to help forget an ex-boyfriend. Doctor Wittkop, an old scholar, is heading for a lecture on Einstein's brain, which he happens to be carrying in his suitcase. There's also a bomb threat, and a teenager who won't shut off his boombox.

Except for the electronics, I wouldn’t say that Manoury has a particular individual voice, one that is unmistakably his and no one else's. The music reflects an atonal style heard widely in Western Europe in the late 20th century, atonality that nonetheless remains seductive to the ear through its gorgeous timbres and allusions to tonality. Listeners will find the music reminiscent at points of Berg's "Lulu", at others of the late style of Pierre Boulez. There are a number of points in the text where the spotlight is on a single singer, with writing close enough to traditionally arias that even conservative listeners will find the work engaging. In one passage, a pentatonic duet between piccolo and harp over quiet low strings gives the music a Japanese allusion I didn't expect from Manoury. The electronic technology used here doesn't sound dated at all, perhaps because some of these sounds have found their way into popular music. The vocal effect at the end of one scene, where the announcer's voice stutters, sounds like it could have come out of contemporary dance music.

While I don't think "60e Parallele" is destined for classic status, I like the music and the libretto, and I would enjoy seeing it live. This Naxos disc, however, can be a frustrating experience. Because the recording is stereo-only, we lose here the rich spatialization. A sort of clipping effect created when the recording was reduced to two channels tells us the sounds must have been flying around in space, but we can only guess at the wonder of it. Furthermore, the booklet for this opera sung mainly in French (with some German as well) includes the libretto only in French, there's no English translation. Not a problem for listeners who speak French, because Manoury's setting generally keeps the words intelligible, but it limits this recording's audience.

The Other Europe in the Middle Ages: Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Cumans (East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 450-1450)
The Other Europe in the Middle Ages: Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Cumans (East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 450-1450)
by Florin Curta
Edition: Hardcover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wide-ranging collection of papers on four steppe peoples that made an impact on Europe in the Middle Ages, January 4, 2016
This 2008 collection of papers on history and archaeology is dedicated to some populations which entered Eastern Europe in Late Antiquity and the Medieval era and really shook things up: the Avars, Bulgars, Khazars, and Cumans. Though these were all migratory peoples taking a well-worn path over the steppe, they flourished at during points over several centuries, and consequently the contributions here cover a wide span of time. Most of the papers were originally presented inthe 40th and 42nd editions of the International Congress on Medieval Studies held at Kalamazoo in 2005 and 2007, respectively.

I am a linguist working with the Turkic languages, so I was mainly interested in this volume to get some historical context for the dry grammatical and lexical facts that are my occupation. The book proved very informative, and many of the contributions are accessible to a wide audience. Victor Spinei's contribution on the genesis of the Cuman bishopric and Dimitri Korobeinikov's on the turbulent movements of the Kipchaks in the 13th century, for example, proved a convenient introduction to how speakers of Kipchak established a presence in Europe (and then dwindled) and even made it to Mamluk Egypt. Veselina Vachkova's paper on Bulgaria and Khazaria as part of the Byzantine oikoumene offers an alternative to the traditional idea of the "Byzantine Commonwealth" centered around Orthodox Christian, noting how these two states were brought closer to Byzantine for realpolitik reasons in spite of their non-Christian identity.

Other contributions are specialist works of archaeology, describing what specific physical artifacts tell us. Peter Stadler proposes a new chronology for the Avar khaganate based on radiocarbon dating. Peter Somogyi uses the flow of Byzantine coins into Avaria to determine Byzantine relations not just with the Avars, but with the Bulgars and Khazars as well. Orsolya Heinrich-Tamaska writes on Avar-age metalworking in the Carpathian Basin, and Valeri Iotov asks if the "Hungarian sabers" are specifically Hungarian.

Some of the claims in this book feel like a bit of a stretch -- I get the impression that so much of the history of this area is based on essentially guesswork. Plus, Florin Curta's paper on the "stirrup controversy" fails to cite Rona-Tas's work, a curious omission. Nonetheless, THE OTHER EUROPE IN THE MIDDLE AGES is recommended for any academic reader interested in this time and place.

In the Heart of the Country: A Novel
In the Heart of the Country: A Novel
by J. M. Coetzee
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.00
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coetzee's most experimental novel, a set of power plays on a farm with a stunningly unreliable narrator, January 3, 2016
The South African writer J. M. Coetzee has often chose his native land as the setting for a study of power plays, and his 1977 novel IN THE HEART OF THE COUNTRY is one. The unnamed narrator of the book is the spinster daughter of a white farmer in the Karoo. This narrator is already angry at finding no purpose in life beyond serving her father, but her father's sudden involvement with another woman pushes her over into murderous rage. The narrator, Magda, gives us her thoughts not in a conventional narrative, but rather in 266 numbered paragraphs, where what happens between the paragraphs is sometimes as important as what is directly mentioned. Furthermore, our narrator is an unreliable one, and the reader is led to question the veracity of her desperate statements.

Magda's account is rather comparable to Samuel Beckett's novels: a narrator rambles on and on, because silence would mean death. The thoughts and actions of this narrator, no matter how commonplace, are described in extreme detail, which draws out the absurdity of our everyday existence. Unlike Beckett, however, Magda inhabits a country where different races coexist in relationships that are strictly governed and fraught with conflict -- though in spite of the prescribed roles, the subtle intermixture of black, white, and coloured in the Karoo has always happened nonetheless. Coetzee invites the reader to consider who has the upper hand in this tense interplay between farmer and farmhands, and how arbitrary those historical circumstances are. Furthermore, Magda is a woman, and women on the farm were expected to follow a set of conventions of their own.

I have read quite a few novels by Coetzee, and I find that while his work is profound, his way of writing is generally a straightforward and uncomplicated one, and some books of his I've even finished in one sitting. This, however, is considerably more complex than his other novels. The narrator's prose is so rich, so bursting with similes and metaphors, that it feels like one reading isn't enough to really take it all in. I soon felt that IN THE HEART OF THE COUNTRY is a novel that has to be read at least a second time. It is also the most viscerally corporeal of Coetzee's work, with the narrator describing the workings of her and her father's body -- warts in all -- in some of the most graphic tones. However, the ending of this book, where the narration turns inward towards Romantic longing, seems quite similar in spirit to that his acclaimed novel DISGRACE of two decades later.

I found this an enjoyable novel and am really looking forward to reading it a second time soon. However, I do think that this would be a baffling introduction to Coetzee, and should be left to readers who already consider themselves a fan of the writer. Furthermore, some familiarity with white-owned farms in rural South Africa seems necessary, as while some Coetzee books have a universally accessible message in spite of their particular setting, this one feels particularly rooted in South Africa.

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