Literature Nobel: Doris Lessing

In the “Social Networks Brighten My Morning” file, I am inordinately amused to be getting status updates from a Nobel laureate on Facebook.

Speaking of Nobel laureates, the latest chunk of dynamite money was awarded this morning to novelist Doris Lessing:

“that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”

I have absolutely no idea what that means, not having read any of her books. I associate her with the class of mainstream writers who independently reinvent science fiction, and then insist that they’re not actually writing science fiction, lest they get genre cooties all over their Serious Works of Art. That might be unfair, though, because as I said, I’ve never read her.

Regardless, congratulations are in order.

Comments

  1. #1 csrster
    October 11, 2007

    “I associate her with the class of mainstream writers who independently reinvent science fiction, and then insist that they’re not actually writing science fiction, lest they get genre cooties all over their Serious Works of Art.”

    According to her wikipedia article that’s not actually true at all.

  2. #2 Chad Orzel
    October 11, 2007

    And, indeed, as Patrick notes, she was a Worldcon GoH. So my uninformed opinion was way wrong.

  3. #3 cisko
    October 11, 2007

    Wikipedia quotes her with “What they didn’t realize was that in science fiction is some of the best social fiction of our time.” And then she goes on to praise Greg Bear for writing more classic SF.

    Her nomination also seems to be annoying general critics, which is a nice bonus.

  4. #4 Jonathan Vos Post
    October 11, 2007

    I like much of her fiction, especially the Golden Notebooks, but don’t think that she re-invents the wheel well (to my tastes) in science fiction. That she praises Greg Bear (very much to my tastes) will force me to re-evaluate this. I have to dispute the paragraph below, from Time:

    http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1670325,00.html

    “She refuses to settle for simple answers or received wisdom, and she has never been afraid to commit heresy. In the 1970s she began experimenting with science fiction — it is unlikely that any other Nobel laureate could lay claim to a work like her 1994 novel The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, about an eco-catastrophe on a distant world. In August Lessing published a new novel, The Cleft, in which she re-imagines the history of the human race — originally, she proposes, humanity consisted entirely of women, all the trouble having begun when women inexplicably began giving birth to male babies.”

    Why? Because there are several Nobel Laureates before who published Science Fiction! To pick just one recent example: William Golding, 1983 Nobelist, whose “The Inheritors” [1955] was written from the point of view of telepathic (or telempathic) Neanderthals being displaced by aliens, namely Cromagnons (our ancestors). C’mon, that’s definitely Science Fiction, and related to Greg Bear’s “Darwin’s Radio” and sequelae.

    As to Golding’s contact with scientists, you have used a term of his without knowing that it came from him. As wikipedia notes: “Having moved in 1958 from Salisbury to nearby Bowerchalke, he met his fellow villager and walking companion James Lovelock. The two discussed Lovelock’s hypothesis that the living matter of the planet Earth functions like a single organism, and Golding suggested naming this hypothesis after Gaia, the goddess of the earth in Greek mythology.”

  5. #5 evan@goer.org
    October 11, 2007

    Agreed with cisko, it is a nice bonus. From http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071011/ap_en_ot/nobel_literature

    “However, American literary critic Harold Bloom called the academy’s decision ‘pure political correctness.’

    ‘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,’ Bloom told The Associated Press.

    Suck it, Bloom!

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