Just as J. M. Coetzee’s post-2003 books present essays and narrative alongside one another, this book engages with its ideas through both critical and creative writing. Reading Coetzee interleaves critical essays on Coetzee’s works with an autobiographical narrative detailing MacFarlane’s more personal response to her reading and writing. The presentation of elements of the creative with the critical, and the critical within the creative, aims to challenge the traditional boundary between the two. This kind of methodology derives from the idea (and practice) of embodiment: that an idea or philosophy does not ‘float free’, but is tied to the idiosyncrasies, divergences, and subjective ‘travel’ of its speaker or writer.
Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, Slow Man and Diary of a Bad Year explicitly address themes which abide more surreptitiously throughout his oeuvre: the divisions and paradoxes which occur the moment pen gains page, the value of literature, and the ethics of embodiment. In revealing the dialogue between writer-self and reader-self, and between author and character, these recent novels invite a rereading of Coetzee’s previous literature. Reading Coetzee explores Coetzee’s preoccupation with the act of writing using his recent books as a lens through which to view his eight previous novels as well as his memoirs and essays.