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Posts tagged ‘doris lessing’

The Doris Lessing Novel That Got Rejected

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:

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Book #54: The Golden Notebook

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.

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A Golden Notebook Full Of Good Quotes

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.

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I Hope To Be This Cool When I’m 87

In 2007, when Doris Lessing was 87, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

She was the 11th woman (and the oldest person) to win the literature prize. If you don’t know Lessing’s story, it’s pretty amazing. She was born in Persia (now Iraq) and raised in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). She never finished high school and basically taught herself through a passion of reading.

She’s written dozens of novels, including my current read, The Golden Notebook, as well as nonfiction, plays, and two autobiographies. The Swedish Academy that announces the award had this to say about The Golden Notebook, regarded as her premiere work: “The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work, and it belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th-century view of the male-female relationship.”

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The Golden Notebook As A “Feminist Bible”

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:

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Doris Lessing: The Crazy Cat Lady?

I hate cats. I really hate cats.

Kittens are fun. They’ll play and do cute stuff. But domestic cats are horrible creatures. They’re like an unemployed relative who lays on your couch all day and gives you a disapproving stare when you order Chinese take-out instead of cooking at home.

Cats suck.

But this post isn’t about my opinion on cats. It’s about Doris Lessing’s opinion on cats. She the author of my current read, The Golden Notebook.

And Doris Lessing loved cats. A lot.

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Why Do You Read What You Read?

In her introduction to The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing discusses how she used to get a lot of mail from college students asking her for a list of “authorities” and critics who have commented on her work. This, of course, was long before the internet.

That prompts her to write several pointed paragraphs about what she calls the “literary machine.” It’s pretty awesome to read, especially if you tire of the pretentiousness of many literary critics. Here’s part of what she said:

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