Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

What Are You Recommending, Todd Shy?


NBCC members and finalists and winners of our book award were eligible to vote in the winter edition of the NBCC’s Good Reads. Critic and teacher Todd Shy voted for J.M. Coetzee’s DIARY OF A BAD YEAR, which landed on the fiction list. Here he explains why:

“Diary of a Bad Year” is relentless with the big questions: How do we describe our obligations to others when our ethical judgments are necessarily provisional, tangled in our own biographies? And if we are grounded in our stories this way, how shall we be people of conviction, people with “strong opinions”? How do politics grow legitimately out of our confessions? And if this is problematic, how can we afford to be skeptics and nihilists in a world of moral disasters? Coetzee’s protagonist recommends a kind of quiet withdrawal, an “inner emigration,” and yet, banished by his own decree, he still struggles for a way to speak of those larger things. To use his own language, he struggles to preserve his honor.

Todd Shy is a regular contributor to the News & Observer.