J. M. Coetzee --> reviewed by Carl Rollyson -->

Novelists enjoy taking revenge on biographers. A typical example of this phenomenon is William Golding’s The Paper Men (1984), in which a biographer is featured as a snoop digging through his subject’s kitchen pail. Only in rare instances do biographers not come off as second-raters and sensationalists, as in Bernard Malamud’s Dubin’s Lives (1979). But no writer of distinction has definitively challenged the line Henry James laid down in The Aspern Papers (1888), where the biographer is dismissed as a “publishing scoundrel.” Thus J. M. Coetzee’s Summertime is quite a surprise.

Rather than focusing on the unseemly prying biographer—a young Englishman named only as Vincent, about whom we...

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