Part-time, evening and weekend work. Lurie lowers his expectations enough to take up with Bev Shaw, a doughty, married do-gooder quite different from the nubile beauties on whom he usually preys. At the rural animal shelter that she runs, he takes on the dismal task of putting stray dogs to death, and of disposing of their corpses in a way that does not violate their dignity. “This is the only life there is,” explains Lucy. “Which we share with animals.” It is impossible not to hear an echo from The Lives of Animals, where Elizabeth Costello denounces “speciesism” as “an enterprise of degradation, cruelty, and killing which rivals anything that the Third Reich was capable of.” Nor is it possible to ignore the weary recognition that we must share our lives with another gender and other races. Lurie abandons his original plan to make “Byron in Italy” an opera about the passionate attachment of the flamboyant British poet to the attractive Contessa Teresa Guiccioli. By the end of Disgrace, Lurie’ s Byron is dead, and Teresa old and lonely. Sitting outside the animal shelter, Lurie plunks out pieces of “his eccentric little chamber opera” on an old banjo. “The lyric impulse in him may not be dead,” we are told, “but after decades of starvation it can crawl forth from its cave only pinched, stunted, deformed.” Coetzee bears stunning testimony to the truth that South African literature, like that of any other flawed and mortal people, sings most eloquently when it accepts disgrace as a state of being. Steven G. Kellman is Ashbel Smith Professor of Comparative Literature at U.T.San Antonio, and co-editor of Leslie Fiedler and American Culture. He writes on film for the San Antonio Current. Democratic? Pro-Life? http://www.sdgeagle.conildemolife.html -Greenpeace Make $10415 per hour Team Leader & plus bonus! Activists/fundraisers The Greenpeace Direct Dialogue program is one of the most innovative fundraising efforts in the U.S. today. In this unique campaign, individual donors agree to become “Frontline” members pledging monthly electronic contributions to Greenpeace. We are seeking highly-motivated and dedicated Activists! Fundraisers to recruit new members at public places and events as well as a Team Leader to supervise and maximize the effectiveness of the program. Excellent communication skills and high levels of energy and enthusiasm are essential for both positions. Please forward resumes to: Share Group, Direct Dialogue Program, Attn: Jaina, 99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144; phone: 800-796-7172; fax: 617-629-4510; esa11: [email protected] SHARE The Business of Social Change do with a fallen world. Twice-divorced, Lurie satisfies his erotic needs with a weekly professional assignation. But when he becomes smitten with Melanie Isaacs, a vulnerable, lovely student less than half his age, his life is utterly transformed through the power of ignominy more than Aphrodite. Refusing to defend himself against charges of sexual harassment, Lurie quits his position in disgrace. He abandons the city to stay with his only daughter, Lucy, who lives alone on a small, secluded farm in the Eastern Cape. Though his heart is in an opera, “Byron in Italy,” that he intends to write, Lurie helps out with household chores. In an inversion of the historical hierarchy of power, he also works as assistant to Petrus, a black neighbor who is insinuating himself into control of the area. When three black strangers beat Lurie and rape Lucy, it forces Lurie to concentrate his thoughts on the kind of garden he has resigned himself to cultivating. Melanie Isaacs is an aspiring actress who lands a part in a new play called “Sunset at the Globe Salon.” A comedy of cultural dissonances, in which women of different races collide in a beauty parlor, it is the kind of popular Literature of the New South Africa that Coetzee seems intent on not writing. The precise, incisive sentences of Disgrace refuse facile consolation, as if conceding that no pronouncements by the Peace and Reconciliation Commission established to bring closure to the atrocities under apartheid can ever erase the shame. Like Lurie’ s sexual depredations and Lucy’ s rape, a nation’s crimes against the Other can never be erased. In one of the novel’s most painful scenes, Lurie seeks out Melanie’s angry father in his home and tries to explain what drew the professor to his daughter and why he refused to issue the formulaic apology that the university demanded as a condition for rehabilitation. “In my own terms,” he tells Mr. Isaacs, “I am being punished for what happened between myself and your daughter. I am sunk into a state of disgrace from which it will not be easy to lift myself. It is not a punishment I have refused. I do not murmur against it. On the contrary, I am living it out from day to day, trying to accept disgrace as my state of being.” Coetzee’ s latest terse, bleak book limns a world bereft of grace. 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 21, 2000
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