Tuesday, November 19, 2013

RIP, Doris Lessing

Most of us who were budding feminists in the late 1960s and early 1970s remember reading the amazing 1962 novel "The Golden Notebook." It was one of those breakthrough books of that time period that we eagerly read, hungry for the stories that laid bare the lives of women who wanted more in life than what they were then allowed. Its author, Doris Lessing, died two days ago, on November 17, 2013, at the age of 94. She was born in Iran to British subjects, lived in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and then moved to London, where she lived the rest of her life. Her work was widely recognized and praised, and she was awarded many prizes, culminating in the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007. She was only the 11th woman to win that honor. At the time of her Nobel Prize, the Swedish Academy praised her work and its impact, and in particular noted that "The Golden Notebook" was "a pioneering work" that "belongs to the handful of books that influenced the 20th Century view of the male-female relationship." Interestingly, Lessing herself, being a very individualistic writer who didn't want to be categorized, didn't necessarily agree with some feminist views, or with being labeled a feminist. But her work, once out in the world, has been vastly influential. She wrote some 30 novels, several volumes of short stories, countless essays and reviews, and more. In later years she wrote science fiction, and although -- as regular readers of this blog know -- I am not a fan of science fiction, I know that many readers are passionate about that work. Of course, as with all good science fiction, it goes far beyond entertainment into astute commentary on society. I will end by urging interested readers to read Lessing's Nobel Prize lecture (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2007/lessing-lecture_en.html)(if this link doesn't work,just Google it), in which she passionately and beautifully advocates for and speaks about the importance of books and reading, the hunger that even poor and uneducated people have for books, the great legacy of storytelling, and the power of literature to feed people's minds and to make a difference in this difficult, complicated world.

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