I am in no way qualified to write an obituary for a Nobel Prize winning author. The Guardian has a short tribute here to Doris Lessing who died yesterday in London.
What I’m reflecting on as I take my mind back lots of years to the Women’s Studies course in the English Department of UQ is that I was much too young to properly appreciate or indeed understand her work. Thus it was that The Golden Notebook was retrieved from the book shelf today to see if I am ready to fully appreciate this work.
It appears that Ms Lessing did resonate with me somehow back in my youth. There’s a fairly lengthy preface in this edition, written by Lessing in June 1971 nearly 10 years after the book was published.
I suspect that I paid particular attention to the preface while looking for clues to complete an essay or assignment. This segment, heavily underlined in my copy, apparently resonated with me then, as it does now.
“There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag – and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend of a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty – and vice versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you. Remember that for all the books we have in print, are as many that have never reached print, have never been written down – even now, in this age of compulsive reverence for the written word, history, even social ethic, are taught by means of stories, an the people who have been conditioned into thinking only in terms of what is written – and unfortunately nearly all the products of our educational system can do no more than this – are missing what is before their eyes. [ .. ]
Everywhere if you keep your mind open, you will find the truth in words not written down. So never let the printed page be your master. [ .. ] you should be learning to follow your own intuitive feeling about what you need: that is what you should have been developing, not the way to quote from other people”.