J. Coetzee writes to Paul Auster

From a letter:

Finally, a remark by Christopher Tietjens in Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End: that one goes to bed with a woman in order to be able to talk to her.  Implication: that turning a woman into a mistress is only a first step; the second step, turning her into a friend, is the one that matters; but being friends with a woman you haven’t slept with is in practice impossible because there is too much unspoken in the air.

That is from Here and Now Letters 2008-2011, by Auster and Coetzee.  That excerpt is from the first letter, and I will keep reading.

Comments

So so true.

"So true". Convincing as they sound, there’s not a whole lot of *truth* in Coetzee memoirs, and it’s wise and astute of him to preempt the rubbish which biographers sometimes write once you are dead. But the general impression given in this exchange of letters is probably correct. All the women ‘interviewed’ in the 3rd memoir -- The Summertime -- do appear rather resentfully not to have been particularly impressed by Coetzee’s efforts in the art of sexual intimacy (such as his idea for strict rhythmic consistency with a Schubert symphony). As Tyler mentioned a couple of years ago in a previous review post there is an explicit admission / acknowledgment of autism in that book, perhaps irrelevant to the present subject. *However* maybe Coetzee is succeeding in conveying a sweeter side of male psyche not often acknowledged, which is simply the desire some of em have for the intimacy of conversation rather than (or after) the “animal” act of “gripping me tight and pushing part of your body into me”. That again is the accusation which seems to offend, anger, or perplex the Coetzee-like (?) character in his latest book The Childhood of Jesus. I’m only part way through. Tyler may comment eventually on that book.

Comments for this post are closed

Comments for this post are closed

Yeah, that's what Billy Crystal was saying in "When Harry Met Sally."

Not exactly deep though, is it?

Comments for this post are closed

being friends with a woman you haven’t slept with is in practice impossible

No it's not impossible for men to have female friends. Easier if you have a sister(s), and much easier after you have a daughter.

Comments for this post are closed

Only if you're bad at making friends.

Comments for this post are closed

Nb. that Coetzee is paraphrasing considerable - the quote is that one marries "in order to continue the conversation".

Comments for this post are closed

Coetzee wrote his dissertation on Ford Madox Ford. In "Youth" he says that he thought he might be discovering a neglected genius, but that Ford's "back-catalog" was actually pretty disappointing. Probably true, but on the other hand "Parade's End" is probably the most under-appreciated novel/novel series of the 20th century.

In any event he's misunderstanding or misremembering. Tietjens didn't have any trouble talking with Ms. Wannop before they went to bed together, it was just that there were a lot of social barriers in the way. What few private conversations they did have put her (an unmarried woman) in a compromising position. Even just making her his mistress would have (and did) clarified her position and given them the time and the space for conversation. Actually their conversations before they live together are more interesting to both of them than after, so I would say that not only is Coetzee wrong, but Tietjens is wrong as well.

Although I found Coetzee very profound when I was 20 or so, now his thinking just seems superficial. He still has a great writing style though.

“He still has great writing style”. That is THE point. There’s a passage in his novel ‘Foe’ where the recently rescued female castaway who has a wonderfully disturbing and adventurous story to tell to the world laments to the ship captain: “As I tell it to you, my story passes the time well enough, but what little I know of book writing tells me its charm will quite vanish when it is set down baldly in print. A liveliness is lost in the writing down which must be supplied by art, and I have no art”.

Everyone has or claims to have a book in them to write, but only a Coetzee can tell you the dullest and you think suspiciously “superficial” thing with “art”. Ain’t many of us got what it takes, regardless of our prideful and astonishing tales of derrring-do!

Comments for this post are closed

Comments for this post are closed

Comments for this post are closed

I get the feeling Coetzee got around a lot, so maybe that's just his personal experience as a very cold and withdrawn casanova.

Comments for this post are closed

When asked if a man could be friends with a women, Prime Minister Disraeli replied "Afterwards, never before". Sure wish I could find that citation.....

Comments for this post are closed

one goes to bed with a woman in order to be able to talk to her

Unbeliebably stupid. There are plenty of vapid or boring girls with hot bodies and pretty faces that I'd like to sleep with, but whose conversation skills are certainly lacking. It's like this man has never heard of the pump and dump.

lesson from the post: be wary of men who write well

lesson from the comment: be doubly wary of men who don't

Comments for this post are closed

Comments for this post are closed

No, it's perfectly possible. The "unspoken question in the air"? The answer is no. Get over yourselves and just be friends. Haven't you ever made friends with a female coworker or a neighbor? I just don't understand how every female human in the world is a possibility.

Exactly my thoughts.

Comments for this post are closed

>The “unspoken question in the air”? The answer is no.

Brilliant.

Tyler's citation is thoroughly sexist, and posted without comment, which does not speak well for him. The academic world is a strange one. Wondering aloud why the average man is better at math than the average woman will get you fired, but suggesting that you cannot speak to woman without having sex first is somehow insightful.

Comments for this post are closed

They aren't possibilities. Or rather, they are only to a subset of men, many of whom will eventually grow up.

Comments for this post are closed

"I just don’t understand how every female human in the world is a possibility."

the fat, ugly and old ones certainly aren't. at least not for men with options.

Comments for this post are closed

Comments for this post are closed

...one goes to bed with a woman in order to be able to talk to her.

Easy to get the wrong impression from that.

Comments for this post are closed

This is of course why gay men can't really be friends with women.

I would say that this is why gay men and women can so easily be friends: there is no unspoken in the air.

Comments for this post are closed

Comments for this post are closed

My reaction would be the exact opposite. Becoming friends would be a necessary, but far from sufficient, precondition to going to bed with her.

Comments for this post are closed

You can see Coetzee's self-portrait of himself in the 2009 movie "Disgrace," with John Malkovich as a womanizing Cape Town professor who wants to write an opera about Mozart's librettist da Ponte:

http://takimag.com/article/heart_of_darkness/#axzz2ND3wypyj

Comments for this post are closed

Comments for this post are closed