I’ve just finished J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus. Normally I’m a big fan of Coetzee’s work, but this book sat on my bedside table for a couple of months before I picked it up. However, back from our Bali break and glad to turn from tablet to the real, I reached for it only to read right through in a couple of sittings. A fabulous unfolding reading experience as all within and without this beautifully layered book – story, themes, title, cover – gradually clicked into place to bond as a seamless whole. Not hard to see how Coetzee has won the Man Booker twice and the Nobel to boot. If you read nothing else between now and the end of the year, let it be this.
I woke this morning thinking of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris – a show I went to several decades ago in South Africa — which, for me, didn’t live up to the rave reviews it was getting overseas. It’s possible, too, that I was too young at the time to properly appreciate it. Whatever the reason, that evening was more memorable for an incident prior to this particular performance than the great musical itself.
It was Johannesburg in the Seventies, a restaurant – café really – where we went for a pre-theatre bite. Time constraints dictated we order something reasonably quick – and, sure enough, a plate of spaghetti bolognaise came to the table in double-quick time, separating from its plate like a flying saucer leaving the mother ship and whirling in the air a couple of times before landing in my pregnant lap. The eyes of the African waiter were a dead-set copy of those of the man who cleaned the car windscreen that wasn’t there in the Gods Must Be Crazy. It was an accident and we treated it as such. What keeps it memorable was the reaction of the restaurant/café owner, a woman who materialised in the dying moments of the replacement dish and who flew at us in a great rage: castigating the poor waiter in one sentence and ourselves in the next, promising dry-cleaning and so on and on. Unexpected, unnecessary and unwanted.
And so was Jacques Brel – for me back then. Until this morning when for some reason it popped up again, connecting in my waking mind with the Beat Generation, Howl, Kerouac, Ginsberg – a whole world I missed out on until my university years nearly three decades later. We might know everything, Plato, but it takes time for some of us to join the dots.
And while I’m on about connecting and joining the dots, I’m disappointed – amazed too – that Amazon has not yet found a way to pay Australian e-book/Kindle authors electronically. But I did receive a very prompt and polite response to my query and the good news is that they’re working on solving the problem. Meanwhile, there’s heaps happening at Mark Coker’s Smashwords. Check out this link http://www.smashwords.com.
Until next time, happy reading and writing.