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.

1 comment:

ankita said...

Yeah, not as easy to read. I kept wanting to skip the entirely political parts and come to the more personal ones.