I've been rereading "Diary" this past week, for a Spring Term seminar on "The Contemporary" that I've been given permission to audit--perhaps the principle joy of living next door to a university is the chance to audit an endless variety of classes and fill in some of the gaps in my education.
I read the Coetzee soon after it was published back in 2007. My copy then came from the library of the British school I was working in, in Chatou, along the Seine in the Paris suburbs. It is a provoking book: the top part of each page is the diary: short polemical, essayistic entries on a variety of topics, such as the state, democracy, Machiavelli and the bottom of the page contains the story of a man who sounds a lot like Coetzee (lives in Australia, writing a book, maybe this book, aging, horny) who meet a sexy young woman in his high rise laundry room (lots laundry room details), ruminates about the stereotype of horny aging men, endeavours to strike up a relationship, etc. There are two or three problems that interest me: 1) what is the point of this structure? 2) how to bloody read the book: a) a bit of the top of the page and a bit of the bottom, page after page; b) read the top or the bottom (a narrative, makes more sense) straight through, then come back and read the other part straight through? (Kundera, in his mingling of essay and narrative makes this easier; Coetzee doesn't provide any transitions; c) would either part of the book on its own be sufficiently interesting? It's getting under my skin. I suspect that's what Coetzee intends.
It's very well written, somewhat abrasive, like someone you meet at a party who makes no attempt whatsoever to charm you and seems to be smirking at your discomfort.