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Elizabeth Costello [Signed]

COETZEE, J[ohn]. M[axwell]

6,589 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0670031305 / ISBN 13: 9780670031306
Published by Viking Press, New York, 2003
Condition: As New Hardcover
From Fine Editions Ltd (New York, NY, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

First Printing, signed by Coetzee on title page. 8vo:[6],230,[4]pp. Publisher's French blue faux cloth spine lettered in white, black paper-covered boards with author's monogram in blind to upper board, pictorial dust jacket priced $21.95. As New (and probably unread), in Fine jacket without flaw. Peerless. Coetzee's ninth novel, published in the same year he won the Nobel Prize for literature. "Of the eight 'lessons' and postscript which make up the novel, seven had previously appeared in print from 1997-2002. Only 'Lesson 7: Eros' and 'Lesson 8: At the Gate' appear for the first time. A number of these had also emerged earlier as lectures given by Coetzee . . . [so] it is likely that he had no overall plan in mind for Elizabeth Costello and, indeed, had to rework a number of the individual texts to make them compatible for simultaneous publication. It is also important to note that Elizabeth Costello's appearances in Coetzee's work extend outside her eponymous role in the book: to date she has also appeared in the 2004 short story "As a Woman Grows Older" and as the interloping author of Slow Man in 2005. As such, the final version of the text can be profitably considered as a collage of interrelated lectures and short stories rather than a unified novel." (Literary Encyclopedia) While, on its surface, this collage portrays a woman's life as mother, sister, lover, and writer, the novel is also a meditation on the nature of storytelling. N. B. With few exceptions (always identified), we only stock books in exceptional condition, with dust jackets carefully preserved in archival, removable polypropylene sleeves. All orders are packaged with care and posted promptly. Satisfaction guaranteed. Bookseller Inventory # BB1347

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Elizabeth Costello [Signed]

Publisher: Viking Press, New York

Publication Date: 2003

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:As New

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

Elizabeth Costello

Review:

For South African writer J.M. Coetzee, winner of two Booker Prizes and the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature, the world of receiving literary awards and giving speeches must be such a commonplace that he has put the circuit at the center of his book, Elizabeth Costello. As the work opens, in fact, the eponymous Elizabeth, a fictional novelist, is in Williamstown, Pennsylvania, to receive the Stowe Award. For her speech at the Williamstown's Altona College she chooses the tired topic, "What Is Realism?" and quickly loses her audience in her unfocused discussion of Kafka. From there, readers follow her to a cruise ship where she is virtually imprisoned as a celebrity lecturer to the ship's guests. Next, she is off to Appleton College where she delivers the annual Gates Lecture. Later, she will even attend a graduation speech.

Coetzee has made this project difficult for himself. Occasional writing--writing that includes graduation speeches, acceptance speeches, or even academic lectures--is a less than auspicious form around which to build a long work of fiction. A powerful central character engaged in a challenging stage of life might sustain such a work. Yet, at the start, Coetzee declares that Elizabeth is "old and tired," and her best book, The House on Eccles Street is long in her past. Elizabeth Costello lacks a progressive plot and offers little development over the course of each new performance at the lectern. Readers are given Elizabeth fully formed with only brief glimpses of her past sexual dalliances and literary efforts.

In the end, Elizabeth Costello seems undecided about its own direction. When Elizabeth is brought to a final reckoning at the gates of the afterlife, she begins to suspect that she is actually in hell, "or at least purgatory: a purgatory of clichés." Perhaps Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, which can be read as an extended critique of clichéd writing, is a portrait of this purgatory. While some readers may find Coetzee's philosophical prose sustenance enough on the journey, some will turn back at the gate. --Patrick O'Kelley

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