I can’t remember why I chose Slow Man by J.M Coetzee. I bought it back in October and have only just around to reading it. Now that I am a commuter once more I have 30mins each way on the train to read my book and have been doing pretty well with it. Slow Man is a weird book, and I can’t say I liked it.
Slow Man by Paul Rayment
It’s starts off fairly sensibly with the 60 yr old Paul Rayment being hit by a car and losing his leg. He spends the first few chapters feeling sorry for himself and trying to decide which nurse to hire. I found him rather irritating at this point, all mopey. I’ve been told I’m not super sympathetic in these types of situations but really…just get over it. I also found him annoying for more legitimate reasons, he was a bit sleazy.
Probably not to the mind of most people, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to think about sex, but he starts to think about the sturdy waist and shapely calves of his nurse, Marijana. Which isn’t the most complimentary pick up I can think of. Anyway she’s married with three kids and decides he’s in love with her. And he wants to pay loads of dosh for her son’s boarding school.
And then it all goes weird and stupid.
Elizabeth Castello, a famous author, arrives at his door. She doesn’t explain why she’s there but that she’s moving in with him. The logical explanation is that she is doing research on a new book. She seems to know a lot of information about him already, which is never explained. She makes a lot of impassioned speeches imploring him to basically be more interesting, seize life, and have some romantic adventures. Although the speeches seemed to contradict each other (at one point chastising him for pining for his married nurse, at another point telling him to go for it). And he has just, you know, had his leg amputated. Is it really necessary for him to start shagging right away?
She sets him up with a blind woman. I guess because their both damaged goods which is fairly insulting to disabled people everywhere. She says this woman is really up for it, but for some reason he has to pay her $450. Also he had to wear a blindfold made from a flour and water paste, lemon leaves, and some tights on his head.
Rayment gets pulled into the general drama of his nurses family. None of it seemed realistic to me. At one point it is alleged that Marijana has been hit by her husband and their young daughter. He does nothing about it, despite saying he loves her. But when son Drago turns up he tells him to stay in his spare room so he can live out some strange fatherhood fantasy. The whole thing just got silly, and then it ended.
I look it up afterwards and Elizabeth Costello is a character in a couple of other books, where she does talks about vegetarianism. Which doesn’t seem to answer any anything about why she is so odd. Coetzee is apparently a celebrated, Noble Prize winning author but I don’t think I’ll be running out to Waterstones to get anymore of his work.