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:
When I wrote The Golden Notebook it never occurred to me I was writing “a feminist bible”. The 60s feminists were not the first in the arena. “The Woman Question” dated from the 15th century. In communist circles in the 40s and 50s feminist issues were much discussed. But the second sentence of The Golden Notebook is: “‘The point is,’ said Anna, ‘as far as I can see, everything is cracking up.'” This is what I thought The Golden Notebook was about, as its “structure” said. Everything was cracking up, and by now it is easily seen that we live in a fast-fragmenting culture.
So I became “a feminist icon”. But what had I said in The Golden Notebook? That any kind of singlemindedness, narrowness, obsession, was bound to lead to mental disorder, if not madness.
That last sentence is thought-provoking, isn’t it?
“Any kind of singlemindedness, narrowness, obsessions was bound to lead to mental disorder, if not madness.”
I might be speaking too soon here, as I haven’t finished The Golden Notebook, but it seems to me that Doris Lessing is proposing a more balanced approach.
She illustrates what she views as the positive aspects of feminism, but she also warns against obsessing over it and approaching it, or anything, from a very narrow-minded viewpoint. That’s strong.
And what about this idea of The Golden Notebook as a feminist novel? Lessing pretty much disputes that point. In my preview of the book, Calum Campbell wrote in the comments that it’s a novel about the process of writing a novel, and that’s what I’m discovering more. It’s a fascinating book that really covers a lot of subjects–not in a Snow Crash kind of way, though–so I’m not sure why it’s considered such a feminist novel.
Anyway, I love this Doris Lessing. She’s 94 these days and living in London. Wonder if she’d do an interview?