Saturday, June 6, 2015

Winning ugly

J. M. Coetzee writes the way Ivan Lendl played tennis: authoritatively but grimly. There isn’t much warmth in the performance. One doubts, for that matter, that either man would consider “performance” to be part of his job description. The Good Story is an exchange of letters between the Nobel Prize winning novelist and the psychologist Arabella Kurtz, who practices and teaches in England. The book is austere and mannered, especially on Coetzee’s side. But it’s rewarding too, in a purely intellectual way. Stick with the dialectic and you’ll be repaid with moments of limpid insight, like outbreaks of sunshine on a frosty day.

The project’s premise is that Coetzee, as a novelist “sympathetically disposed” to psychoanalysis, wants to open a dialogue with Kurtz about the connections between Freudian therapy and fiction writing ... [read more]