Thanks To Doris Lessing

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Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Sep 05, 2005 4:35 am
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia

Thanks To Doris Lessing

Postby RonPrice » Tue Feb 13, 2007 8:03 am


I came across Doris Lessing in an interview on “Books and Writing,” an ABC Radio National program, on 16 January 2000, then again on SBS TV on 18 September 2000. On that latter date she referred to my generation as self-indulgent and unself-critical. With the years, Lessing went on to say, this self-indulgent generation of mine had many casualties as former personal certainties that it had held died and systems, empires and parties lost their credibility, their meaning and even their existence.

Lessing also informed her listeners that she thought most writers were mildly depressed. When asked what her most joyous moments were she said they were “at the beginning of each book.” I agree that a certain melancholia, a certain pensiveness, a certain level of emotion recollected in tranquillity, are present during the writing process. In November 2000 I came across a statement by Lessing in an article entitled: “Writing the Self: Selected Works of Doris Lessing,” Deep South, Vol.2, No.2, Winter 1996, p.12. She had just completed, but not yet published, the second volume of her autobiography Walking in the Shade. Of autobiography, she said: "it helps calm life’s whirlpool." In the next several years I found Lessing's words accurate. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 4 February 2007.

You were just finishing your story,
your two volumes in '94 and '97
while I was just starting to put my
story down. Of course, you'd done
those semi-autobiographical novels,
indeed, you've been writing since I
was a child and recording my first
memories back in '47 and '48 & '49.

Producing our lives we were, Doris,
by an infinite chain of signifiers and
constructs. Some therapeutic self-
discovery as we were spinning our
yarn, as it were, in the current of life.1

You ended your story in '62, just as
I was beginning mine, my pioneering
over four epochs. Finishing your story
at 43 you were and me--starting mine
at 43 and taking it back to the age of 18.

1 Lynda Scott, "Similarities Between Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing," Deep South, Vol.3 No.2, Winter 1997.

Ron Price
4 February 2007
I have been married for 44 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 13, and a Baha'i for 53(in 2012). I have lived in Australia since 1971 & am now retired and on a pension.

Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Sep 05, 2005 4:35 am
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia

Doris Lessing: A Congratulations and A Personal Reflection

Postby RonPrice » Sun Oct 21, 2007 6:40 am

It has been eight months since that first posting on this immensely prolific writer. Now that Lessing has won the Nobel Prize for Literature another comment is in order here.-Ron Price, Tasmania 8-)

A sizeable proportion of Doris Lessing’s(b.1919) devotees embraced her 1962 classic The Golden Notebook as their bible. This book has become her most famous and influential work, the story of a writer's divided selves: political, literary and sexual; an account of the breakdown of tradition and the importance of socialism and, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, of voting labour. "Everything's cracking up,” she wrote. The book sold millions of copies and anticipated the social shifts of the sixties. Her fans still look to her as some banner-waving outrider for the feminist cause with some words of wisdom on every issue under the sun.

But Lessing has grown very contrary in her late adulthood and old age, making statements and writing novels that have confounded her fanbase. Lessing says she plays with ideas in her books. “People are always asking writers for definitive answers,” she states, “but that's not our job." When asked questions she uses mischievous evasion tactics and iconoclastic stylings, signs of a mind that is restless, but not wandering, wrote one critic.

Lessing states that in the late 1950s there was an enormous energy in society. In those years communism began to shred before the eyes of its committed adherents. Her book The Golden Notebook was about this shredding and about feminism. She says that her overriding concern when she writes is to get to the heart of some matter. "Books have been my life,” she states simply and with emphasis, “I was educated on them.'' She is not one of those writers who sits around worrying about posthumous fame. Much of her work has aspects that are autobiographical and she has written two volumes of straight autobiography, Under My Skin and Walking in the Shade.--Ron Price with thanks to “More is Lessing,” The Daily Telegraph, September 25, 2004.

The first world you remember
in the twenties and thirties has
disappeared as you say; even
socialism and liberalism, as
C.Wright Mills added back
in ’59,1 have lost their power
to be the centre and to hold
the fort for a beleaguered
humanity doing battle with
the phantoms of a profoundly,
wrongly informed imagination
and sinking deeper into a slough
of desponding gloom & doom.

And me, a child of that first 7 Year Plan
and the dawning of the Second Baha’i
Century—as you were marrying again,
finding communism and that new hope
for the world which would last only 15
years—one of your many abandoned
hopes which seems to still spring eternal
in your breast—as if through some
fortuitous conjunction of circumstances
we the people would be able to bend the
conditions of human life into conformity
with our prevailing human desires.

Sadly, I feel the foundations of your
confidence are frail containing some
desperation to believe, but not really
understanding the meaning and the
magnitude of the great turning point
of history we have passed and are
passing through. But, as you say, Doris,
writers do not really have answers, and
it is high time people stopped looking to
them for their oft’ illusory prescriptions.

1 C. W. Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959.

Ron Price
18 October 2007 8-)
I have been married for 44 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 13, and a Baha'i for 53(in 2012). I have lived in Australia since 1971 & am now retired and on a pension.

Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Sep 05, 2005 4:35 am
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia

Re: Thanks To Doris Lessing: More After 2 Years

Postby RonPrice » Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:32 pm

Thanks To Doris Lessing: More After 2 More Years.-Ron
With my poems an underlying philosophy becomes more evident. This narrative and this poetry has provided what Doris Lessing called a discourse by which I have constructed my "versions of reality." The other major discourse Lessing describes is fiction. That foundation of civilization I spoke of earlier, and which Kenneth Clark said required "intellectual energy, freedom of mind, a sense of beauty and a craving for immortality," became increasingly manifest in the Baha'i community as well as my own life, by stages, beginning as far back as the 1950s when that Kingdom of God on earth made its start in 1953. By 1983, thirty years later, my personal craving for immortality, for the afterlife, had reached such a proportion that I felt embarrassed to even talk about it. By 1983 I had come to memorize the names of all the departed Hands of the Cause, names I recited daily. I prayed for them and anticipated that they would pray for me in a process known as intercession which takes place here and in the hereafter. By 2003 I carried a list of some 200 names with me from time to time when I went for walks in the bush. These were the names of pioneers during the several epochs of 'Abdu'l-Baha's Plan, friends who had passed away and others who, for various reasons, seemed appropriate to include on my prayer list.

Virginia Woolf, the English writer in those entre des guerres years learned to be attentive to the movements of her own mind to cope with the bi-polar tendencies in her life. Through self-reflection she found a language for the ebb and flow of thought, fantasy, feeling, and memory, for the shifts of light and dark. In her writing she preserved, recreated, and altered her perceptions, attitudes and significances of the dead, altering in the process her internal relationship with their invisible presences. "I will go backwards and forwards," so she remarked in her diary, a comment on both her imaginative and writerly practice. I found this description in Katherine Dalsimer's book Virginia Woolf: Becoming a Writer somewhat similar to my own.

I began to experience, for the most part insensibly over the first twenty years(1980-2000) a certain relief, not from dejection as Tennyson and Coleridge found, but from depression and exhaustion, what I have called a tedium vitae. Like Tennyson and Coleridge I found my relief in people outside of myself, in the person of dead friends who never truly died but continued on in my memory and spirit. Tennyson would read letters from a dead friend and I would say prayers of intercession to a range of people from Hands of the Cause to, as I say, dozens of souls whose names I would recite, mantra-like. Coleridge was dejected because he had lost his health, youthful joy, and creativity. I did not feel the loss of these things, in fact, my creativity was perhaps greater than ever. But I felt tired of the social domain, tired of much of life. It was not really depression, for I had known depression only too well. It was a fatigue of the spirit, a distaste for life in varying degrees, a peaceful, restful withdrawal into quietness. It was not unlike the experience of Henry Adams and his sense of isolation and a certain disillusionment.

A poem is, for me, a reference point in my life. I can commune with, recreate, a past self, a past idea, a way of looking at something. An inner dialogue takes form in a poem. While writing a poem there's a type of reinvention of things past, even of self, while living in the present. The very boundaries between living my life and writing about it become blurred, eroded. Versions of reality are constructed, for me, more in a therapeutic context than a confessional one. While I write I strive, as I probe, as I delve, among my past selves, memories, mental states in an effort to create a quite precise, honest, accurage and unified self and as accurate and honest a view of some sociological, historical, religious aspect of reality as I can. This 'unified self' that finds form on paper is a self that wills to know the truth about itself, recognizes its limitations, its mosaic-like character and the immense complexity of not only the phenomenon of self but of the multiplicity of things I attempt to deal with. -Ron Price with thanks to Lynda Scott, "Writing the Self: Selected Works of Doris Lessing," Deep South, Vol.2, No.2, Winter, 1996.

This great drama of self-definition,
creation of identity and selfhood
right back to those mud-pies
on a spring day and before,
shall we say, 1872 near London
with my grandfather, Alfred?.....
this great story of incredible detail
simply cannot be conveyed
by the ripples crossing o'er my days,
faces which break and blur and pass1
and the bludgeon of words.2

1 Judith Wright, Half a Lifetime, editor, P. Clarke, Text Pub., Melb, '99, p.288. 2Baha'u'llah, Seven Valleys, p.24. RP, 26/2/02.

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