Microviews Vol. 7: Yet More Books I Swore I'd Never Read

on Friday, February 26, 2010
Well, it looks like I left the best two until last. The month of February draws to a close and I give you the last reviews in my "Books I Swore I'd Never Read" challenge. March is next. Prepare for some closing reflections on what I learnt this month (particularly if you want to become a massive international best-selling author of absolutely no substance), as well as a new, arguably even more embarrassing challenge. Oh the lengths to which I will go for your amusement...

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Great, just what the world needs. A mormon who knows how to get into your house and shove their dogma down your throat without having to knock at your door. This tribute to teen abstinence and female disempowerment is so tedious that, if you will pardon the pun, it positively sucks the life out of the whole vampire genre. Well done to Meyer (I hate writing her first name - it seems intentionally misspelt to appeal to annoying emo zombies) for getting an entire generation to swallow this codswallop. She even convinced publishers to put out a new edition of Wuthering Heights with Twilight inspired cover art. I, however, am perplexed. Where is the appeal? I've read plenty of horror novels. I've read romances. I've read books aimed at teen girls. I get why many of them are popular. Twilight, however, is just lame. I didn't hate it. It just bored me. I mean, consider the plot. Awkward city girl comes to town and wants in with the popular crowd. She falls under the spell of the mysterious, rebellious loner who causes her to reconsider her aspirations for popularity and gets her to wreak revenge on her tormentors. Oh, wait on. That was the plot of the cool 80's film Heathers with Christian Slater and Winona Ryder. This one is about some clumsy, try-hard goth girl who falls in love with an Efron-esque vampire and realises that she cannot live without him. Literally. She wants to be bitten (read: have sex). He would love to bite her (read: have sex). Indeed, as a vampire (read: man), he is physically wired to need to bite her (read: have lots of sex). But because he loves her so much, he refrains, even when lying next to her in a state of semi-undress. No biteys. Not even with some sort of latex capping on his teeth. In the meantime, they all play happy Addams Family. Some rubbish happens with baseball. And then good vampire Eddie must save poor, powerless Bella from a bad vampire. Very scary. And let's not forget the positive lifestyle undercurrent. Meyer wields her religious message like a sledgehammer, even going so far as to endorse Creationism in a particularly odious passage. She sets back women's liberation and emancipation at least fifty years, suggesting that the fairer sex literally can't survive without a powerful man, and even if she could she would not want to. Hell, I suspect this book is printed with the ashes of all those bras that were burnt in the sixties. Hmmm... Zombie bras... Now there's an idea for Meyer's next series.

Review in Haiku: Teen idol with fangs/ Resists great desires because /Emos taste like crap

I actually put this one out to some friends for their haiku reviews. The results were much better than mine!

Hannah's Haiku: As long as they shine/ Stalking creeps are real hot stuff/ Dexter needs glitter
Rachel's Haiku: Goodbye Dracula/ Vamps die when Edward glitters/ Horney wolf should win
And last, but not least, CJ's Haiku: Twilight makes me sad/ Twilight is completely shit/ Twilight gave me AIDS

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
P.T. Barnum might have wittily lampooned the idiocy of the majority, but I suspect even he would have been in awe of Rhonda Byrne. The Secret is the most distasteful, deceitful and downright dangerous piece of solipsist wankerism that has ever polluted the Earth. By now you all know the rub: If you want it, and believe it, just ask for it and feel the good vibes and presto(!!!!) it is yours. That's The Secret. Wealth, health, love, a cup of coffee. Only your ingrained fear and negativity are preventing you from having them all. Indeed, it is you - centre of the Universe - who brings about all that is good and invites anything bad that happens to you. Like cancer, for instance. You got it 'cos you asked for it. If you lose the battle, it is because you didn't really want to survive. Poverty. You deserve it. This is victim blaming at its most vile. The solutions are equally offensive. "Food cannot cause you to put on weight unless you think it can". That's a choral symphony for all those middle-American fatsos who want an excuse to eat that extra piece of cake. Or the whole cake. Wow, I can't imagine why Oprah waddled onto this bandwagon. "You cannot catch anything unless you think you can". Great advice in a world of AIDS epidemics and other such health crises. Byrne is either an idiot or a criminally dangerous manipulator. She pretty much ignores anything related to science or common sense, and instead impliedly advocates unsafe sex, suggests that parents need not immunise their children and says that you can use The Secret's methods to cure yourself of 'incurable' diseases. She offers the example of a breast cancer survivor who healed herself in just three months without chemo, radio or any other medical intervention. She just pictured herself healthy and the Universe provided. I went to school with a girl who had the same approach to her Type 1 Diabetes. Guess what? She's dead. Seriously, even purveyors of alternative medicine recommend that their wares be used in conjunction with conventional methods. Byrne suggests ignoring both. Her irresponsibility is truly staggering and I hope that anyone whose health suffers as a result (or the families of those who die) sues her ass off. If the message wasn't horrid enough, Byrne's method is equally suspect. She gives quacks high falootin' titles, invokes (and quotes out of context) great thinkers like Plato, Shakespeare and Einstein, and even carts out the Bible (though only the sequel) to provide doctrinal support for her message. Lest I be accused of unfounded scepticism, I am currently visualising a big mansion with a sexy library and several winning lottery tickets. Plus a world free of poverty, hunger and disease. While I'm waiting for it all to materialise, I'll let you in on a few Secrets of my own. This book is spectacularly bad. It ignores perfectly rational explanations for everyday 'miracles' and forces believers to recast ordinary experiences as extraordinary. It claims a wishy-washy theory - The Law of Attraction - to have the same scientific veracity as real theories like the Law of Gravity. It mentions 'quantum physics' an awful lot to make you think it is smart and scientific. It even paraphrases a Mariah Carey song ("There can be miracles when you believe"). But here's the big Secret Rhonda Byrne doesn't want you to know. She is a bully who will resort to all kinds of negative activity to protect her interests. She diddled co-creators of the original DVD out of millions of dollars. Indeed, she stole the company and moved it offshore. When they tried to sue her for the money, she launched countersuits in weird jurisdictions that judges have labelled "vexatious" and "harassing". She has fallen out with a bunch of the 'gurus' she championed in the book. Some of the others have themselves been the subject of malpractice suits. Everything about and around this book positively stinks, although it does speak volumes about the power of viral marketing (it is probably the greatest example thus far, even bigger than Oprah's other great cause, the Free Hugs campaign). If you still believe in this book, please come speak to me. I have some swamp land in New Jersey that you might be interested in buying. Apparently the waters are regenerative. It will change your life!

The Review in Haiku: Crappy TV hack/ Rehashes worst kept Secret/ That Barnum was right

The Safe and the Suitcase: Salinger, Kafka and the Search for Lost Literary Treasures

on Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Call me morbid but I've rather enjoyed the saliva storm that has been whipped up in the wake of JD Salinger's death. The much-loved local grandpa, church bingo fanatic and incessant scribbler might have walked away from the limelight following the phenomenal success of Catcher in The Rye, but now that he's carked it the literary vultures seem intent on giving him a sky burial, with various chunks of his carrion being lifted up on high for all to see. I particularly had to smirk at the photos that have recently emerged in which the startled old codger (if it was really him and not, say, Thomas Pynchon) looked like a cross between Jed Clampett and the serial killer Ed Gein. Supposing for a moment it was Salinger, the guy in those pictures exuded an air of sensibility, clearly unwilling to buy into any cult of personality even if by doing so he might well have been be feeding it. The reclusive lifestyle, it seems, was nothing if not a further investment in literary immortality. Salinger surely knew the legacy he was leaving. Chances are he was at pains to control its construction, even from beyond the grave. Now, as I suspect he might have hoped, many have gone positively giddy at the prospect of an entire body of unpublished work, wondering what he left behind in his safe. The guy supposedly never gave up writing so one can only ponder the vast expanses of forest that have been felled over 60 years to service his typewriter. Add to that the fact that his later published works were infinitely better than Catcher (even if some pre-dated it), and there might well be something about which to get excited. The next few months will no doubt prove interesting as publishers descend on Salinger's kids with, I would wager, blank chequebooks, especially if dear old dad left instructions to destroy any manuscripts. Can they possibly resist the temptation that claimed the souls of Dmitri Nabokov and Max Brod?

When it comes to lost literary treasures, or at least the hope of finding some, Salinger's safe pales next to the contents of a humble, tattered suitcase recently the subject of a bitter legal dispute in Tel Aviv. For quite a while now, many have wondered what Franz Kafka's literary executor stuffed inside the case before gifting it to his secretary Esther Hoffe. When Max Brod died, Hoffe essentially became de facto executor. According to Brod's will she was supposed to make the necessary arrangements to have the contents catalogued and properly stored. Instead, she let them languish in her humid, cat-infested apartment (except the bits she tried to sell, of course) pretty much until her death in 2008. As if to slap old Max in the face one last time, she left it to her daughters who immediately saw fit to stuff whatever they could in various bank vaults around the world. Now, following a case that had almost nothing to do with Kafka but a lot to do with the Israeli laws of inheritance (think of it as an old fashioned custody battle perhaps), Hoffe's daughters have been ordered by the court to reach some deal with the National Library of Israel or have the suitcase (metaphorically speaking - I'm not sure the actual suitcase still exists) opened and catalogued without their consent. The Library successfully argued that Hoffe Snr had no right to gift the case to her daughters and it seems that whatever was inside will, one way or another, finally be set free. I'm not sure whether to be excited or mortified.

It is a sad fact that today's publishers are not averse to printing any piece of crap that Kafka committed to paper. He is an industry, a Che Guevara for the literary minded. Just spend a day in Prague and you'll see what I mean. Not that I can talk. On my Czech Literature shelf I have any number of volumes of pointless apocrypha, including a rather gorgeous edition of Kafka's professional legal writings. More the fool am I for treasuring it. See, even we cynics can't get enough, which means whoever gets ultimate possession of the suitcase (and we should probably be thankful that none of the players ever just threw out the papers and used it for travel or as a kitty litter tray) will have a pack of salivating hordes ready to lap up the remaining morsels. Speculation as to the contents has ranged anywhere from diaries, to correspondence to as-yet unpublished stories and novels. Personally, I'm rooting for shopping lists. Naturally, for the most part, all this imaginative sleuthwork is nonsense. Brod had those papers during his lifetime and, I am sure, went through them with a fine-toothed comb hoping to find anything he could salvage. Nothing escaped him. He even went so far as to finish works himself (Amerika being a prime example) if it meant he could squeeze one last drop of blood from the writer's gravestone. That said, and here comes my nugget of inside information, there were at least three short stories rejected by publisher Kurt Wolff before he accepted A Country Doctor which have still yet to surface. Wolff says so in his unpublished diaries. Even Saint Franz, it would seem, was fallible. Please don't stone me.

I dread to think then what is in the suitcase if it was rejected by both Wolff and Brod. I know there certainly once were items of importance. Hoffe was arrested numerous times for trying to smuggle or sell the odd bit. She even offloaded the original manuscript for The Trial to the German government for a measly 1.1 million pounds. Which means we can add Hoffe to the list of people who rejected the remainder. If that is the case, let's just hope that in some sort of homage to Gregor Samsa, nature saw fit to allow the silverfish to get to whatever is left before any Koruna-eyed publisher can. Either way, any treasure hunters will have to wait a little longer. The daughters intend on appealing the decision. Take that, literary futures market!

Microviews Vol. 6: Even More Books I Swore I'd Never Read

on Friday, February 12, 2010
Dear Penny Syber,

I have long been a customer at your fantastic secondhand bookstore. Indeed, you are my one exception to the obsessive compulsion I have about owning only new books. I'm sure Jung would make a great deal of that. Anyway, I hope that my years of custom have caused you to think highly of my taste in literature and that my visit last week did nothing to alter that. As I said at the time, it was for a greater good. With that in mind, I dedicate these reviews to you.

Your loving and usually discerning customer,

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
So I guess you're ready for my big hatchet job on the Dan Brown monolith. I have spent this month rallying against the blockbusters that have, for the most part, proven to be as terrible as I had anticipated. I have also spewed plenty of bile against religious motifs being used as the common hook to draw in the masses. But here we go. I can't believe I'm going to say this. I kind of enjoyed The Da Vinci Code. Sure, it's horribly written. Dan Brown should almost be forbidden from writing his own name. But he tells a great story and doesn't preach any sort of religious message. Who cares if the 'revelation' of a bloodline of Christ is as old as the hills? Brown doesn't pretend that it isn't. He even cites his sources (which, interestingly for the lawyers in the audience, included Holy Blood, Holy Grail). Taken for what it is, The Da Vinci Code is a fun, fast-paced nonsense adventure which might not change the course of literature, but is certainly a fun way to pass a long train ride. The characters are cardboard, the denouement is stupidly improbable and Brown's attempts to tie up the loose ends in logistically impossible ways is laughable. But who cares? I had fun the whole time. Consider it literary sorbet, to be consumed between more substantial offerings.

Review in Haiku (with apologies to the one person on Earth who hasn't read the book): Someone once told me/ Albinos can't be trusted/ No, it's the British!

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
Wow, so it took me a whole fifteen minutes to find a book that is more appallingly written than The Da Vinci Code. Well done James Redfield. You make Dan Brown look like Nabokov. And, in terms of profundity and authenticity, you thrust Elizabeth Gilbert into the stratosphere along with such luminaries as Sartre and Descartes. I remember being in high school when this book hit. People went nuts, as if it had ushered in some kind of Messianic age. Seriously, Redfield was giving Hubbard a real run for his money in terms of kickstarting a new religion (by that time people had tired of living by the Rhinehart Dice Theory which, in my humble opinion, is a far more sensible way of living one's life than either Dianetics or Celestine). Luckily, I was already happy and secure with my path in life so I didn't see any point in reading it. Now, almost twenty years later, I kind of wish I had, so that I could have thumbed my nose in scorn at the new believers. I call the biggest case of shenanigans on Redfield. He is a massive fraud. Although many people have claimed that he found a way to synthesise new age mysticism (and a whole heap of other plagiarised concepts) with conventional religion, the reality is almost the opposite. Redfield is a proselytising Christian, who sought to draw those exploring alternate paths back to the Church. He hid it in a terrible adventure that any eight year old special school student could have concocted (and seriously, I can't quite get across how spectacularly bad it is). Yep, it's got Mayans, pyramids, car chases, shootouts, evil priests [insert your own list of bad adventure cliches here, I'm bored of naming them]. And, of course, it has good priests who show you how the Insights are completely in sync with traditional, mainly Christian, doctrines. Now, I'm all for helping people find themselves. I get there's a need and an industry that services it. I also, contrary to popular belief, have no problem with conventional religion for those who wish to subscribe. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, The Force, whatever! They're all good to me. But don't preach a traditional dogma and doll it up as a new solution. That's just cruel and disingenuous. This hokey load of crap made my blood boil so much that it ought to come with a sticker on the front that screams, in embossed capital letters, "Not suitable for Jainists". Though, if I had my way I'd throw in the words "or anyone!" after that.

Review in Haiku: And now an Insight/ Great fraud perpetuated/ Until next trend strikes!

I'm off to read the newies by Delillo, Rhodes and Rachman now. Very excited.

Microviews Vol. 5: Some More Books I Swore I'd Never Read

on Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Daily I sink further into the abyss. At my local secondhand bookstore, stares. Buying the Da Vinci Code, The Celestine Prophecy and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull in one blast? I tried to excuse my way out of it like a teenager in a porno store. Back home, in the garage of my apartment building, I walk with them tucked under my arm, lest a neighbour see me. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of my grandfather's book and wrap the incriminating items in paisley paper. For him, of course, said items included genuine classics such as Portnoy's Complaint, Lady Chatterly's Lover and Lolita. Mine are cheaper, grubbier... I own something by Dan Brown! What have I become?

But remember, open mind. Open mind.

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach
Before reading this much loved classic, I never thought I would relate to a stupid seagull. Now, having read it, I can quite unequivocally say I will never relate to a stupid seagull. Self-empowering mumbo jumbo really reached new heights with this one, if you'll pardon the pun. Fly, humble birdy, fly. Dare to be different. If you just believe in yourself and disregard your limitations you will soar beyond the flock. Those millions who, on the back of this book, dared to be different were just like the massive crowd gathered outside their saviour's window in Monty Python's Life of Brian, cheering in gleeful chorus that "We are all individuals". So here... Let me dare to be different and go against the flock. Wake up! This book is simplistic rubbish, repackaging stoicism and commercialised Eastern philosophy (of the Grasshopper variety), and laying it at the feet of some conventional Messianic deity. Son of the Great Gull indeed. George Lucas did it way better when he made Star Wars, and he at least had the courtesy to throw in some nifty explosions. Bach (who, from what I gather, might have done us a favour by following in the footsteps of his fellow aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery) could have achieved the same with a simple packet of aspirin, but who am I to tell him to suck gull eggs?

Review in Haiku: Dare to soar beyond/ And you will find yourself too/ Watch out for that cliff!

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Doesn't anyone read the bible just for laughs anymore? The Old Testament, the sequel, the fan fiction appendices? I mean, seriously, does 'the greatest story ever told' now only exist as a source for clues in thriller novels and a barrel of quotable apples in which new age fabulists and self-empowerment gurus can bob? Here I was enjoying a seemingly sassy old-fashioned crime thriller when THWAK... I was blindsided by biblical garbage yet again. Please. The world has been seduced by the Stieg Larsson phenomenon, what with the whole dying before his genius was recognised schtick. But who are we kidding? This guy ain't John Kennedy Toole. He was an obsessive workaholic who quite literally wrote himself to death. Luckily, beforehand he happened upon the cliche checklist to help him strike literary gold (well, for his beneficiaries at least). To be fair, I must admit that this book was fun for the first two hundred pages while the religious undertones remained subtle. I mean, I enjoy a violent anal rape scene as much as the next Catholic. And those allusions to the Vanger family's Nazi past... Wow, it had me thinking how much I loved the way Indiana Jones whipped, shot and propellor-chopped his way through those cool films (that does not include The Last Crusade, sorry Leo). Oh and I totally liked the heroine that reminded me of half the goth try-hards I dated at university (and a little of myself). But I draw the line at encoded religious messages as keys to solving the mystery. I hated it when that pile of horse manure The Bible Code was doing the rounds and, frankly, it doesn't stink any less now. In this month of "Books I Swore I'd Never Read", can I just have one that doesn't use the bible as a plot device or thematic crutch? Hmmm, I wonder what this next one on my pile has in store... The Da Vinci Code. Ooooh, that looks like it's about art! I'm saved... in the non-religious sense, of course!

Review in Haiku: Apocryphal tidings/ In some middle aged wet dream/ What would Jesus do?

Microviews Vol. 4: Some Books I Swore I'd Never Read

on Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Two books in and I'm beginning to regret choosing this theme for February. I could spew bile here, but what the heck... I'll let these reviews speak for themselves. As promised, I've done brief summaries in haiku. If nothing else, that was fun!

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
No written form speaks so honestly to me as the fable. It is the chosen vehicle of many of the great writers of olden times, and the backbone of my favourite single body of literature, Yiddish. I therefore approached Coelho's blockbuster debut with a certain degree of hope. Perhaps he would turn out to be a throwback in the best possible sense, and I had been unnecessarily pigheaded about not reading him. For the first few pages I was ready to fall on my sword and admit that arrogance had triumphed over sense. But then it all went awry. It is not hard to see why this has remained so popular since its publication. Hiding behind the facade of classical storytelling is a grab-bag of borrowed religious concepts that most likely affirmed beliefs already held by the book's countless readers, combined with a few 'mystical' new age concepts for the suckers in the audience. To be fair, it is a perfectly pleasant read (aside from the times I found myself swallowing the chunks of vomit that had crept up my gullet). However, if you are one of the three people left in the world who hasn't read this, let me give you some time saving advice. Pick up your copy of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour and spend a few minutes listening to "All You Need Is Love". At the end of each chorus line scream out "And Jesus!!!", and you will have pretty much experienced, in thematic terms, The Alchemist. No need to thank me.

The Review in Haiku: Boy rides on donkey/ Affirms pre-existing faith/ Now who's the donkey?

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Ok so I get that I don't exactly fall within Elizabeth Gilbert's target demographic but I really tried to approach this book with an open mind. Lest you think there was never any chance I might succumb to Gilbertmania, I'm even willing to admit at the outset that I have, at times, enjoyed some of the chick-lit foisted upon me by sadistic editors. But right now I am positively furious and not just because I will never get back the few hours I spent on this steaming pile of bourgeoise self-indulgence. No, I am furious because Gilbert is nothing more than a yuppie snake oil saleswoman and the world has bought it by the gallon. Eat Pray Love is essentially a recovery memoir, where the affliction is not depression or drug addiction, but simple middle class ennui. From a position of exceptional privilege, Gilbert offers a most innovative cure: escape your shitty life by dropping everything and whizzing off on a whirlwind tour of Italy and exotic South East Asia where enlightenment is surely awaiting you. It is an amazingly arrogant act of preaching. Most people don't have the luxury of just putting their lives on hold and running away from their problems. Most don't have the advantage of a massive book advance that allows them to do that sort of thing (a detail Gilbert disingenuously fails to mention). Indeed, the closest most of her readers will ever come is sitting in front of the television with a tub of Neopolitan ice cream while watching the National Geographic or Discovery Channel (assuming, of course, that they can even afford cable). Eat Pray Love is also a rather embarrassing testament to American insularity. Gilbert is constantly amazed by all the exotic wonders the world has to offer, be it pizza in Naples, an Ashram in India or the touching simplicity of Balinese life. Slap after slap after patronising slap in the face. And to think, Americans worship at the Gilbert shrine. Speaking of which, there is a constant barrage of hack philosophising on religion and God here, particularly of the Christian kind. Like with The Alchemist, it is camouflaged amongst grabs from new age mumbo jumbo crap and some typical middle-American kowtowing to all things Yogic but it still shines through in all its dogmatic glory. Hopefully the world will soon tire of Elizabeth Gilbert so we can fold her into a little package, stuff her in a suitcase and leave her at the back of a cupboard somewhere. At least then her yoga training won't have been totally pointless!

The Review in Haiku: Problems can be solved/ With extra mozzarella/ Oprah will love this

40 Years on We're Dancing the Booker Disco

on Monday, February 1, 2010
Just when I thought I'd survived another literary award silly season, the earnest folk at Booker Inc have announced that they will finally be awarding the Booker Prize for novels published in 1970. Turns out there was a change of criteria in the early days of the prize, as explained on their website:

"In 1971, just two years after it began, the Booker Prize ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became, as it is today, a prize for the best novel in the year of publication. At the same time, the date on which the award was given moved from April to November. As a result of these changes, there was whole year's gap when a wealth of fiction, published in1970, fell through the net. These books were simply never considered for the prize."

So it now looks as though poor Bernice Rubens, who won it that year for The Elected Member, will have to share her accolade with one of the 22 shortlisted authors.

Of greater concern, however, is the dual threat now posed to the literary time/space continuum. Firstly, the prize's name has undergone a commercially-driven metamorphosis in the past forty years. Will the winner be awarded a "Man" Booker Prize, resetting history as we know it and confusing the hell out of all the subsequent winners in their parallel catch-up universe? Will any of those other works even be written the second time round? I pity parallel universe me, who rather enjoyed The Life and Times of Michael K and The Inheritance of Loss (though I won't be upset to see The Line of Beauty or The Sea disintegrate).

Also, if either JG Farrell, Iris Murdoch or William Golding wins this 'Lost Booker' they will have beaten both Coetzee and Carey to the double. Until now, we thought it had taken until 1999, when the reclusive South African bagged it for Disgrace, for an author to win it twice. But Farrell won his in 1973 for The Siege of Krishnapour, Murdoch hers in 1978 for The Sea, The Sea and Golding his in 1980 for Rites of Passage. Any of those might now turn out to have been their second and John Maxwell might have to live without one of his greatest accolades (though I dare say a Nobel ought offer some consolation). I wonder if, after the Lost Booker is announced, subsequent editions of his novels will omit the line "first person to win the Booker Prize twice".

As for the longlist itself, it really is an interesting cross section of mid-flower power literature. I recommend you go to www.themanbookerprize.com to see who made it and have a go at picking who might get the honour. Personally, my tip is Patrick White's The Vivisector and not only because he's an Aussie. It's just that I'd hate to see the great JM Coetzee having to dust an empty space in his mental trophy cabinet because of a simple headline grab by some foppy bookish spinners!