In the book of my memory, after the first pages, which are almost blank, there is a section headed
Incipit vita nova.
Beneath this heading I find the words which it is my intention to copy into this smaller book, or if not all, at least their meaning.

Dante,La Vita Nuova

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Doris Lessing

Just posting a collection of links. Beginning reading Martha Quest. I forgot how fabulous Doris Lessing is. I'm actually quite excited about this reading. I think Praise is a bit ahead of me right now.

Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007. Here is the interview conducted by John Mullan.

Here is her bio on the Nobel site.
Here is her bio on wikipedia.

A clip from an interview with Lessing translator, Krista Kaer.

I'm struck by Lessing's presence as an author. She really does belong to a liminal community of writers caught between the late 19thC and the late 20thC, early 21st. She willfully and gleefully, if I can say so, shrugs off the confines of polite society and intellectual clothing that wraps much of modern European prose. What appears at first traditional slowly becomes radical, diatactical rather than dialectical perhaps? I'm thinking of Hayden White's Tropics of Discourse. However, she is disciplined and intellectual, a true master of the craft of the novel unlike much of contemporary fiction, especially in the United States. The post 60s novel can be a rather anti-intellectual affair that poses as a radical representation of identity and consciousness. Writers are much more in tune to the market, even the writer-critics, teacher-writers, writer-artists, of which the last is the current vogue, are keen observers of the small press market and, in my opinion, much too interested in their noteriety and reception than they are in cultivating their craft and discourse community. In fact, there is no discernible writing community among fiction writers. There are many writers' groups, which like group therapy are about acceptance more than craft. I digress.

I just reached the point in the Nobel Prize interview where Mullan asks Lessing about Harold Bloom's critique that her prose was "an attack on the male sex." HA! Harold Bloom. What a fart!

Here is her reaction to being stalked by the British press after winning the Nobel Prize.

Lessing always expresses that her writing represents a kind of realism. For example, when answering criticism about how men are represented in her work, she responds that it's the "strictest realism." No apologies for her manner of observing everyday life. It is real. Very encouraging. It's not literature serving a social or political cause, in fact and for example Lessing says that being labeled a feminist author never did her any good. It's her prose and in that manner it is real. The personal is political. In other words, she is not carrying water for anyone. I like that. A lot.

"The novel is not where the passion is situated." Lessing criticizes the place of the novel. Well, she was correct. Is correct. The novel is currently the domain of the amateur and talented novelists are not promoted for their intellectualism. They are quite often shunned for it. Difficult books are a bad thing. And this is not only a problem in the more traditionally artistic circles, this extends to the genre market. I don't know what to make of this. Although it's safe to say that the market needs a resurgence of patronage. Authors need to get back in the habit of cultivating scenes that are picky and exclusive. We need to cultivate our literature. Some people do not write well. Look at the number of writing programs in the US. It's no surprise that much of the work being published is crap. MFA programs are as much about introducing writers to people who can get you published as they are about workshops. Unfortunately, they are less about developing a rigorous attention to the detail of working on theory and craft. In fact, I have yet to meet more than a few students from MFA writing programs that know anything about theory or care to learn. They are looking for opportunities to publish. What do we expect?

The novel should not be permitted to become the form for the amateur. We need patrons. It's incredibly difficult to work fulltime and write fulltime. That's the practical matter of fact. What's most lacking is a group of people to speak to about my work. I'm speaking form personal experience here. I take this rather seriously.

In the background, over Lessing's left shoulder, is a yellow box of Go Cat cat food. Wonderfully herself. Unprepared. Honest.

From Lessing's essay on journalism:
The fact is, with journalists as with every profession, only a minority are any good.. Most repeat what others say. This process can be observed in all kinds of context. An exciting bit of music is used to introduce a hundred programmes on television: or an opinion, a catchphrase, taken up, and used to death. (January 1990)

Here is a link to a fansite that is a good retrospective of her work, with many links.

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