An inside look at the life of an outsider
Elizabeth Costello is a challenging novel, just like the namesake character. This is a book that alternates between brief scenes between mother and son, mother and ex-lover, mother in purgatory — and extended lectures on many topics.
Including animal rights.
In one lecture which began as an essay — The Lives of Animals — Costello lectures on the cruelty of killing animals. It is a lecture not exactly met with enthusiasm and it’s an experience that many vegans and vegetarians have probably shared at one point or another.
The experience of an outsider.
Costello is an outsider, partly because of her trade and mostly because of her lifestyle.
Coetzee has written about outsiders for many years now. Based purely on his relative silence when it comes to book promotion, my guess is that he has a great deal of experience in this area.
Is he a vegan? Vegetarian? I have no idea. All I do know is that he has captured in this book a feeling that resonates with me.
Author of the novels The Tourist Trail and Where Oceans Hide Their Dead. Co-founder of Ashland Creek Press and editor of Writing for Animals (also now a writing program).