Jim Grimsley's Reviews > A Sport of Nature
A Sport of Nature
Jim Grimsley's review
Jun 05, 2021
Gordimer is well established and has no need of another fan, which is a good thing, because I am not quite one. This is the third of her novels that I have read, if memory serves, though the others were decades ago. She is an extraordinarily accomplished stylist though there are occasional passages that struck my ear as clumsy. She has a habit of remarking repeatedly on her protagonist's breasts, which are apparently quite fine; were this the book of a male writer I would mock that a bit. In her case I figure that it means something but I'm not quite sure what. The figure of Hillel, the woman at the center of the book, is easily the most puzzling Gordimer character I have encountered, and I think this is deliberate since she draws Hillel so very enigmatically. Again, were this book by a male author, I would simply dismiss it as a statement that Hillel's importance arises from the men she sleeps with, which is a true statement no matter how sympathetic you are to the book and the author. What makes her interesting is that in her course of partners she takes us on a tour of politics in Southern Africa at the time just prior to the end of South Africa's apartheid. But the journey has a rather empty feeling and Gordimer is left to struggle for an ending. Hillel, who does very little other than float mysteriously through parties, political meetings, and along sunny beaches, has no real narrative that can resound as it ends. Even when one of her husbands is killed, even in her grief, she is pale and uninvolving. This is a deliberate choice by Gordimer and it is accomplished with such exactness that it can scarcely be an accident, but exactly what the book intends to convey is lost on me. My reaction to the earlier novels that I read was more or less in the same vein. It is the importance of her material that draws me to read her from time to time, and that importance is quite real. But her kind of fiction is not really what I look for.
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June 5, 2021 – Shelved