Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee Vintage $101 Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee's fictional heroine, Elizabeth Costello, is a brilliant and renowned intellectual whose life parallels his own. She's a writer, born in 1928, who has written nine novels, two books of poems, a book on bird life, and a body of journalism. She now spends her time attending and giving lectures, and it's these intellectual dialogues that form the meat of this book. These include ruminations on realism, African literature, animal rights, and the problem of evil. She outrages a university audience by comparing the slaughter of animals for food to the Nazi death camps. She gets confused in the middle of a lecture on realism, and rubs her listeners up the wrong way. Frustratingly, she often uses the excuse of old age and fatigue as a reason to avoid discussion or not to think things through, a habit that rather defeats the purpose of intellectual exercise.