Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Fourth-rate science fiction"

Doris Lessing is a favourite of mine, and today she won the Nobel prize for literature.

The veteran US literary critic Harold Bloom has so far provided the only voice of dissent. Describing the academy's decision as "pure political correctness", he said to the Associated Press today that "although Ms Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable ... fourth-rate science fiction."

I was introduced to the work of Doris Lessing almost 20 years ago, in a class on dystopian literature: we studied The Marriages between Zones Three, Four and Five.

The Fifth Child made me dread having children. I think of this book often; when I look at my child and think how lucky I am, I am choked by the realization — the sense Lessing imparted in that slim novel — of how little control I have over who my child is.

I happened to be reading The Good Terrorist in the early part of September 2001. It's the banality of the protagonist's life that stunned me.

Mara and Dann is, for its fairy-tale quality, my favourite, from which I learned to play the game: What Did You See?

All of these affected me quite profoundly.

And there were others in between.

I read The Golden Notebook just a couple years ago. I haven't yet managed to write about it. The best books are the hardest to write about. Even the preface had me crying out, "Yes."

From "Problems, Myths and Stories," in Time Bites:
...when you belong to a reading generation, there is a whole web or map of references, information, knowledge that you have taken for granted; you realise that reading has been a parallel education, filling and extending what education you in fact did have. With contemporaries you talk from inside this web, or net, or reference,...

From "A Reissue of The Golden Notebook," in Time Bites:
I have to conclude that fiction is better at "the truth" than a factual record.

I quite agree.

Give me fourth-rate science fiction any day.


Suzanne said...

I thought of you today when I heard the news!

(Good to hear from you -- everything okay?)

rachel said...

That Harold Bloom is such a sourpuss!

And yeah, I feel like congratulating YOU, for some reason. Way to go, Isabella!

Melanie said...

The first notice I read of Lessing winning had the quote by Bloom. I thought, What? Why are they quoting Harold Bloom? Who cares what he has to say? What did Doris Lessing say? It was very strange.