Thursday, October 11, 2007

Less(ing) is More

[Nobel Winner] Joy! Early today, brilliant British novelist Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature. As with most of these announcements, you just want to jump up and down, whistle, cheer and then add: "What took those stuffy Swedes so long?"

Lessing is 87, still writes nearly every day. She wakes up at 5, feeds hundreds of birds near her North London home and gets to her desk by 9 a.m. Don't you love it?

Like millions of her fans, I read her signature work,
The Golden Notebook, in college. It was required reading in my University of Utah women's lit. course. We read Austen, the Brontes, Didion and Lessing. The author has often talked about how feminism, communism -- all the "isms" that shaped so many lives in the '50s and '60s became the core of that incredible novel.

Here in Salt Lake City, my favorite bookstores are already ordering more Lessing to keep up with the extra demand that always follows a Nobel announcement.

At downtown's Sam Weller's Bookstore, new book buyer Catherine Weller says she was thrilled when she heard Lessing's name announced in Stockholm. The bookies who make odds on these things hadn't even considered Lessing's name in the mix. Weller is a big fan. "The depth of [Lessing's] treatment of her subjects, and the way she's explored important issues and women's roles has been just revolutionary."

At The King's English in Sugar House, book seller Kelly Wells says she hopes a whole new generation might now get acquainted with Lessing's work. "There is definitely some ignorance about feminism and its historical roots, especially with younger generations. And Lessing has always had a refreshing view, a more intelligible view than a lot of other feminist authors. Virginia Wool's writing just resonates in her, and the way she explores gender in society and relationships," Wells says.

So run, don't walk, to your nearest bookshop and buy something -- anything -- by Lessing. I'm going to re-read
The Golden Notebook now to see if it hits me any differently 30 years after my first reading.

The image on the left of this blog post is Lessing in 1962; on the right is an undated, but much more recent photo.

For a look into Lessing's work and life, go here. (Holly Mullen)

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