Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reading Doris Lessing : Part II

This entry starts from where this one ends.I'm nearly halfway through 'The Golden Notebook' and I'm pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of Ms. Lessing's style.I've grown more accustomed to some of the themes explored in the book, although I find a central theme rather elusive at this point.

A recurring theme in the book is that of the British Communist Party,it's modus operandi and the protagonist's strife with the party in general.I find her(Anna's) candid admissions about the party rather amusing;especially the general 'defensive and apologetic' air that ails all party members.The communists are far from being romanticized in this book,irrespective of whatever affiliation the author may have had with them.

Another theme is the way women relate to men,both physically and emotionally.Female stereotypes may exist,grow old and then vanish, but they all subconsciously yearn for the same thing;the comfort and security of domestic bliss.

Then there is the theme of writer's block and another one that I like to call writer's pride.I am a little disappointed with the treatment of writer's block.Perhaps all those witty Woody Allen flicks are to blame for my preconceived notions of it.On one hand Anna is reluctant to have her bestselling novel adapted for the small screen(one can't blame her,the offers are ridiculous) and on the other hand she seems to be recoiling in an endless cycle of self doubt.She prefers instead to log memories of her years in Africa and her sessions with a psychotherapist.

Anna maintains a separate notebook for her personal experiences(with men,her daughter and her friend Molly).I found it interesting that she writes it in a Kafkaesque manner;all the while referring to herself in the third person and giving everyone an assumed name(Note:Kafka's diaries have a fictitious quality just like Anna's journal).

I will post the next update when I have read a little more.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

One Step at a Time:Reading Doris Lessing Part I

This is a case of a book being judged by it's cover.I may have read the name 'Doris Lessing' on a couple of lit blogs forgetting,rather conveniently,that she had won the Nobel Prize.The jacket of 'The Golden Notebook' bears a picture of a woman sitting on the floor;writing with feverish intent.The summary at the back had the words 'insane','writer's block' and 'notebooks'.Something in my head snapped and I bought it.

It isn't an easy book to read.There are too many things on a woman's mind,particularly,if she suffers from writer's block and a troubled love life.The protagonist Anna lives off the money that she has earned from her first and bestselling novel.She laments the decline of the contemporary novel to a journalistic device for relaying facts.She has bouts of cynicism and insecurity as she contemplates her life,work and love affairs.Doris Lessing(like most Nobel winners for literature) leans to the left and so does Anna.Anna often reminisces about her affiliation with the communist party and their work in apartheid ridden Africa.Her reminiscing flows like an endless babble of memories,portraits and random doodles.All this in the first 120 pages!

Lessing's style is not unnecessarily verbose or conversational.She is one of those rare writers who engages the reader with the dullness of everyday life and the sourness of lofty ideals gone limp.What is inspiring is the attention to detail and the unique structure of the novel ;the way Anna divides her life into parts and chronicles each part in a specific notebook.The book was touted as the precursor to the women's liberation movement of the seventies and is often incorrectly dubbed as 'feminist'.The women in the book are fiercely independent and vulnerable at the same time. They have relationships,of varying degrees, with several men and are stung by feelings of insecurity and jealousy.Each section of the book is nevertheless titled 'Free Women'.

I will post more updates as I continue to read it.