The Pickup is an uncomplicated love story that leaves a tangled set of impressions. Though flawed in several minor ways, it is an extraordinary book that will reverberate with me for some time.
This is my first of Gordimer’s novels and I took great pleasure in her unfussy, almost-poetic, precise use of language. It is the novel of a meticulous craftsperson. A fragment remains with me: “…for the past has no wholeness, it has been etiolated by revised explanations of it, trampled over by hindsight – all their lives”. As Gordimer says later in her narrative, that is “like a sentence, a statement, that seems to have been written [for her] long before [she] came into existence…”
Beyond the love story there are layers that explore liberalism, alienation, poverty and consumerism. For a penetrating appraisal of The Pickup, I’ll divert you to J. M. Coetzee:
Not just an interesting book, in fact, but an astonishing one: it is hard to conceive of a more sympathetic, more intimate introduction to the lives of ordinary Muslims than we are given here, and from the hand of a Jewish writer too.
I’ll be reading more of Gordimer’s work over the next twelve months. Thanks to Michelle whose comment encouraged me to read The Pickup, which is her very favorite Gordimer novel.
I have a half-finished Gordimer from last year that sounds much the same: meticulous, precise, reverberative. Thanks for the reminder (I put it aside for time reasons and not the work itself).
Pleased to be of service, Richard. Reading your half-finished Gordimer will not require dilution of your book-buying diet, though it may well tempt you to buy more Gordimer. Thankfully I have two other of her novels on my shelves and a book of her essays.
I hadn’t seen the Coetzee review, and will read it properly tomorrow when I have more time. Am very glad you enjoyed this first Gordimer. If you’re interested in more, I give you a short list of my favorites – The Conservationist, The House Gun, My Son’s Story, July’s People… these are her best, I suppose. Although it is hard for me not to mention None to Accompany Me and Occasion for Loving as well. If we include The Pick-Up, I’ve just listed half of her novels…
Next up will be My Son’s Story, simply because I already have it on my shelf, together with what I thought was a novel but, on reflection, is a collection of short stories. Thank you so much for telling me of your other favourites, I fully expect to read each of them.