The lot: in words by Michael Leunig
Diary of a bad year by J. M Coetzee
I thought I would read a book that was witty, funny, and delight, just like his cartoon. But it turns out The Lot by Michael Leunig is more than I expected.
Yes, it is witty, but not so funny. It is, on the contrary, very serious. He strongly criticises hypocrisy and mediocrity. He sees enough darkness in human being and refuses to humour about it.
Reading Leunig’s book I think immediately of Coetzee and his book ‘Diary of a bad year’. It is a rare format of a book as it has two parts in it. The first part printed on the top half of the book is non fiction but the bottom half is a fiction. In that book Coetzee, like Leunig speak freely on wide range of issues.
Coetzee tells a story in his book as one day he lectured in the national library and talked about the police could raid any families under the security reasons in 1960s . So he mentioned it was not new that we used this very same excuse again today. The following week, someone posted a letter to the Australian newspaper and asked Coetzee to be sent back to Africa, to Zimbabwe.
I wonder what our beloved patriotists would think about ‘The lot’. Maybe it is OK for an Australia born to be critical but not for an African writer to have a say, even a writer has won the Nobel prize and lives in Australia?
There are couple of reviews on each book that give us glimpse of what are both books about.
Reviews from Penguin Book Australia on ‘The Lot’
Musings from a truly original thinker on everything under the sun and many things over the moon.
There are few aspects of existence to which Michael Leunig has not turned his renaissance mind, as a bemused and committed member of the human plight. From his cartoonist’s sensibilities comes a peculiar journalism made of parable, memoir and soliloquy, on subjects ranging from the sublime to the subhuman.
From the fragile ecosystem of the spirit to the brutalisation of the modern world. From the joy of primal epiphanies to the wretchedness of the violence we unwittingly commit against each other and our deeper selves each day.
To hypocrisy and dispair in the political order. Military madness and the media. To violins, artists and newborn facials. The value of the mundane. Emotional mysteries and the night sky. Light and darkness in the national character. The wisdom of the innocent. The sadness of the brain-ridden. Humanity’s redeeming pathos and our exquisite inseparabilitiy from the natural world. . . The lot.
Even in the smallest, simplest things, Leunig finds the eternal key. And no matter how confronting the topic, he awakens and upholds the funny side. The uplifting side. The side you’d forgotten about – or didn’t realise was there.
Library Journal Review on ‘Diary of a bad year’
Library Journal Review: Señor C, an aging and ailing writer in Australia, has been asked by his publisher to contribute political essays to a book called Strong Opinions . Having become infatuated with Anya, a beautiful young woman who lives in his apartment building, he hires her to type his manuscript. While Señor C is writing his essays on politics and morality, a morality tale of a different sort is playing out in his apartment, as the young woman’s boyfriend tries to tap into the old writer’s online bank account. The result reads like a literary hybrid of fiction and nonfiction, with each page alternating between Señor C’s observations for Strong Opinions and dialog among him, Anya, and her boyfriend, Alan. As Anya remarks, we’ve all got opinions, but if you tell a story at least people will shut up and listen to you. Nobel prize winner Coetzee’s thought-provoking and cerebral novel is recommended for academic and larger public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/07.]—Leslie Patterson, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence, RI –Leslie Patterson (Reviewed October 1, 2007) (Library Journal, vol 132, issue 16, p56)