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Donostia Book Club

My name is Slawka Grabowska. I organize Donostia Book Club. We meet every month to discuss previously chosen books or short stories. Check out our FB page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donostia-Book-Club/105225566276875?ref=hl

Doris Lessing died a few days ago

One of the most touching posts i've read:

Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, has died, at the age of 94.

I know that I want to write about what Lessing’s writing has meant to me, and I want to do it here, but I hardly know where to begin.  In some ways this post is much more personal to me than any of the “personal” writing I post in this space.

I never was assigned any of Lessing’s writing as a student, not even in graduate school.  I never studied her writing in a course.  I encountered Lessing because a professor suggested that given my interests The Golden Notebook would blow my mind.  And so I checked a copy out of the library, and I vividly recall reading it at 19 years old, in the top bunk in my dorm room, blowing off the work I had to do for my other courses (I wasn’t an English major yet), and just feeling… feeling like I had never experienced anything like that book.  I felt inspired, and “seen,” and excited, and fascinated.  My mind was, indeed, blown.

For a long time (far longer than I should admit), The Golden Notebook was the only thing by Lessing that I’d read, although I reread it compulsively.  And for a long time (far longer than I should admit), I didn’t really dig deeply into what that novel really had to say, but instead I picked out the parts with which I identified (and let’s note: I was identifying with a book with an ultimately unlikable protagonist who is going through a mental breakdown) and the parts that expressed my own confusion, anger, frustration, and inarticulate feminism.  But it was an important book to me, and I grew up with it.

Only later did I begin to study it, first in putting it on my list for my Ph.D. comprehensive exam, and second, once I had a tenure-track position, teaching the novel.  And then I began reading Lessing’s other works and teaching them and to learn more about Lessing herself.

I began to love Lessing for her antagonism to critics and her refusal to do what readers wanted or expected her to do.  I began to see Lessing as an author that was radically reinventing the genre of the novel, even as she resisted many of the conventions of postmodern narrative experimentation.  I discovered that Lessing’s novels, as I reread them, grew and changed with me, that I understood them in new ways as I accumulated more personal and intellectual experiences.  Not all books do that.  Not even all books that people describe as “literature” do that.

So I feel profoundly sad today, even though I recognize that Lessing lived a long life and that this was her time.  And it’s a loss for which I should have been ready, for her health has been in steady decline.

Of course, I was not ready, am not ready.  Perhaps I will spend the afternoon rereading The Golden Notebook