8th December 2007

Doris Lessing

It’s nice to see an existentialist, feminist, humanist science fiction writer win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Here are a few Lessing links including,

  • Her acceptance speech via the Guardian… it is a paean to reading and writing and books. It includes this passage,

    The printing revolution, which did not take place in a matter of a few decades, but took much longer, transformed our minds and ways of thinking. A foolhardy lot, we accepted it all, as we always do, never asked: “What is going to happen to us now, with this invention of print?” In the same way, we never thought to ask, “How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?”

    It contains literally thousands more well-chosen words contextualizing Ms. Lessing’s concerns and her love of books, and it does not avail itself to the sound-bite analysis that journalists with deadlines have tried to apply.

  • Jan Hanford’s Doris Lessing “fan site,” a well composed popular biographical and bibliographical site showcasing Ms. Lessing’s life and works. Naturally, there a few cat pictures.
  • The October 11, 2024 New York Times story regarding the Nobel Prize award.
  • The Lessing Wikipedia article.

I just finished reading Jon Husband’s comments on Doris Lessing’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Jon says,

…as Lessing suggests the Web is making its way inexorably and in a sense more slowly than we might realize, into the daily fabric of our lives. I am old enough to be able to say that I learned to read and think before there was a web, and I think there is something fundamentally important about reading as a way to anchor ideas and values in real-life experience.

However, today’s younger folks are beginning to learn to take in, use and push back out information in different ways.

It is important that we pay attention to this. What we call blogging and twittering and growing social cohesion through exchanges of personal and perhaps pertinent information will be “just the way we do things” in the relatively near future.

Jon connects the dots that Lessing provides between those of us who learned to think and read before the mediation of the Interweb was available, and the current generation of children of privilege for whom it has always been available. He says,

Let’s see how it [the Internet and the web] can be used, and we can use it, to work at connecting people, ideas, purpose and meaning so that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have a fighting chance to come to terms in positive ways with what we will have left them.

At Burningbird, Shelley Powers commented on Nick Carr’s observations regarding Ms. Lessing’s speech. The speed at which we bounce our critiques, our criticisms, our arguments and impressions back and forth and off each other is NOT something Ms. Lessing addressed, but it does make for a slippery milieu for intellectual engagement. Often by the time I get around to writing about something, the flock of bloggers has picked it clean and moved on to other interesting topics. The meta-critical nature of Shelley’s engagement with Carr regarding Lessing’s pointed love for books and that nostalgic passage lamenting current conditions in favor of her memory of the better old days reminds me that — thank god — it’s not turtles all the way down, but at some point we break through to a brightly lit space with an infinite horizon and we have the ability to focus with clarity anywhere on this plane of existence. As usual, there are interesting comment threads accompanying both Powers’ and Carr’s posts.

Doris Lessing has no trouble saying what she means, and expressing herself quite clearly. I have trouble capturing the nuance and the profundity that she’s shared with us this year in her Nobel lecture. I have so much trouble with this, that it is not until now that I quote the title of her piece:

On not winning the Nobel Prize

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8th December 2007


My favorite part is at about two minutes when he plays the air sitar.

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8th December 2007

Fighting the clownshod asshats wherever we find them…

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