Thursday, October 11, 2007

Doris Lessing!

Well, I never would have thought I would be so excited that Doris Lessing finally won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but I guess that having written part of my dissertation on her work left more of a trace on my emotions than I thought it did. (Ph. D. in Comp. Lit., 1995: "Observing Women: Doris Lessing, Christa Wolf, and Marguerite Duras.")

I've been pondering re-reading a bunch of Lessing for a year or so now, and I know that when I do, I will start with the first book of hers I ever read — not The Golden Notebook, sprawling and "important," but the deceptively small and utterly overpowering The Fifth Child, which is what I recommend (as highly as I possibly can) for anyone who has not read her work before (in fact, for anyone who has never read it; it's a mindboggling book). [But do NOT go on to read the abysmally bad sequel, Ben in the World!)

At almost 88, she might respond as Jaroslav Seifert supposedly did in 1984: "What good does it do me now?" :-)


SarahJane said...

I'm not a big Lessing fan, but I did read The Fifth Child and enjoyed it a lot. I remember thinking "it can't be possible" when she actually wrote a sequel. I read the review of that second book in the NYT and I can't remember what they said about it, but I scowled at the idea of a literary sequel. It seems so mystery novel.

Andrew Shields said...

It's not just that the sequel is bad, but that it negates much of what is good about the original book. It's as if she wrote a sequel to the book that she thought she had written, and not to the book she wrote. (She is a writer whose books are often much more complex than she realizes!)