As a writer who hopes to one day have a book published, I don’t find this story very encouraging.
Back in the early 1980s, Doris Lessing–Nobel Peace Prize winning author of The Golden Notebook–submitted a novel to a publisher under a pseudonym, or a fake name. Lessing is an incredible writer, and she’s one of the most respected authors still alive today.
But, because she used the pseudonym (Jane Somers), publishers had no idea they were reading Lessing’s work. Her proposed novel, The Diary of a Good Neighbour, was rejected.
The New Yorker explains it this way:
Call me cynical, but when I hear the term “experimental novel” I just assume that the author got bored and wanted to do something different.
Really, it’s probably just a different way of interpreting what we call the traditional novel. And one of the ways an author can do that is through structure.
Pale Fire, which I reviewed last month, is a novel that fits that bill. And, two novels later, completely out of coincidence, The Golden Notebook is another one.
The novel focuses on Anna Wulf, author of a famous novel who, after suffering from writer’s block, decides to record her thoughts, reactions to events and news stories, and all sorts of interesting stuff, into four colored notebooks.
I always judge a book by how much I mark in it–either a note or two in the margins or underlining passages.
By that standard, The Golden Notebook should rank fairly high on my list.
I didn’t expect much from this book, but it’s been a pleasant surprise. Nothing groundbreaking. It’s not going to give The Great Gatsby or To Kill A Mockingbird a run, but it is a really good book that has held my attention–at least until the last 100 pages or so, but I’ll cover that in my review next week.
And guess what? It’s not even that heavy on plot! How I surprise myself sometimes.
The Golden Notebook is a novel that focuses on character development. And with that comes a lot of great insights from these characters.
I pulled a few of my favorite quotes from this novel so far.
I’m a fan of Doris Lessing.
I’ve never read her work before The Golden Notebook—and I have to say that the book isn’t too bad—but I’m enjoying learning about her even more than reading her book.
She’s a fiery, independent spirit (as is obvious in her thoughts about how to select books to read). The characters in The Golden Notebook—mostly women—reflect that same spirit, and that’s why the book is a feminist favorite.
But Lessing wouldn’t really be independent if she attached herself to a movement or a group of people—isn’t that the antithesis of independence? And maybe that’s why Lessing has shrunk away from calling herself a feminist, or from labeling The Golden Notebook a “feminist Bible.”
This woman is awesome.
She had this to say about the subject in an article she wrote for The Guardian in 2007:
So there’s a woman who writes in four different notebooks covering four different periods of her life. Each of the notebooks has a different color.
But then there’s a fifth notebook. It’s golden. And in the fifth, golden notebook, this woman, Anna, attempts to tie together all of those periods of her life, as recorded in the other four notebooks.
That’s The Golden Notebook.
The story involves themes of Stalinism, The Cold War, feminism, and the spread of nuclear weapons. Sounds like another light read!
Here are a few facts about The Golden Notebook and its author, Doris Lessing: