Tim Parks reviews Coetzee’s novel “Summertime” in the last issue of The New York Review of Books.
Mr. Parks writes: ‘Certainly there’s comedy to be had in the description of this willfully unassertive man partnering a woman who sees sex “as a contest, a variety of wrestling in which you do your best to subject your opponent to your erotic will”. “He was not in my league,” Julia complains. When John tries to persuade her to moderate her lovemaking to fit the low movement of a Schubert string quintet, the better to “re-experience” the sexual feelings of a bygone age, Julia shows him the door. “The man who mistook his mistress for a violin,” she comments.’
Where Tim Parks discovered comedy in “Summertime” I saw irony and tragedy.
To mistake your mistress for a violin is not necessarily comedy. But perhaps I should reread “Summertime” in a more frivolous state of mind.