Well, Coetzee seems to be getting a lot of hate from Arts One LB1.But my trusty friend Wikipidea tells me it’s not only us. Upon it’s publication, Foe was ill-received even by the fancier critics. Interesting. I’m tired of doing my usual lame synopsis blog thing, so i’m going to talk about that a bit.
In the immortal words of Kyle, “this story is a retelling that molests all that I once loved.” While that’s just really funny, I think it’s also an important statement about the way it affects people. And I think that is the point. Robinson Crusoe was (and is) a well read, well respected book. It’s one of the staples of modern day literary society. The fact that Coetzee should choose this book to frame her narrative is important. She is trying to “molest” the idea. That sounded strange, but making us rethink the way a classical narrative exists seems to be trying to reach a furthur goal than just ‘bein’ weird’. That’s why I like this book. It is similar to The Yellow Wallpaper in that its actual writing style means something more than just the book itself. It’s about the way we read as well. Sorry to quote Kyle again, but he had a really good blog that made me think about stuff. Anyway, he says “Friday’s nationality, charismatic entity, and worst of all his own voice are literally cut away from this retelling.” and I think that is the point. While the original story presents his nationality and voice as being ‘naturally’ silent in a hegemonic sort of way, Foe makes it more of a question, making you think about the original text as well as the one you are reading. Just in the one fact that Friday’s tounge is cut out says everything about race relations, discrimination, and the power of minorites. And sure, you could read stuff like that into almost anything, but you get the feeling that this is something Coetzee is consciously doing. I think people tended to see Crusoe’s character as a noble thing, that shows the power of the human spirit, etc. Foe challenges that. Does industrious expansion really have that much allure? What about when the island is full, but there are no supplies left? Is it tradition or rather a fear of change? I think that is why this book is brilliant but also easy to hate. It shows characters and things in a way we DON’T want to see them, thereby raising questions about people and the stories they tell.
I mainly think this book is about the power of language. Friday can’t talk, he has no power. Crusoe has power in a place where language is unneccesary, but does not make it to a world of communication. Foe himself creates an entire story, but it is what he makes it, and he has power of Sarah. Something I wonder about is, does the story make the man or does the man make the story? Yeah. I think that is what this book is about. What is more real, the event or the telling of the event.
Ah… you make an interesting mistake here. Coetzee is a man, not a woman.
Now, how might that change our reading of the book?
Oh yeah, I did write “her” once, didn’t I? I like to think I knew Coetzee was a man and just made a writing mistake while thinking of Susan Barton.
Male or female author, i’m not sure I buy the idea that this book is loaded with feminist commentary. I guess the fact that she is a female who can’t express herself properly and turns to a man sounds fairly misoginystic, but I got the feeling that Susan’s repression didn’t necessarily have everything to do with her sex. It makes her life more difficult but is that the type of difficulty in communication Coetzee is talking about? Don’t really have a strong argument here, i’ll see what the lecture says.