Monday, March 22, 2010

The Cleft by Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing is a curious old lady...  She's white haired and wrinkled, and lives with her handicapped son, and you might be fooled into thinking: ah, what a sweet grandmother-y lady.  And then Doris Lessing begins to talk... she is sharp, witty, insightful, doesn't spare any punches, and has the rebellious I'll-think-for-myself-thank-you-very-much independence that you would expect from a twenty-something rather than a eighty-something. 

When you take the wisdom of your 80's and combine it with the fire of your 20's, you get Doris Lessing.   And you will not be disappointed!

I have long been fascinated with post-apocaliptic tales... what happens after the end of the world?  Lessing takes that idea and flips it on it's head and gives us a pre-history tale... what happened before the beginning of the world?

Here is Lessing's provocative beginning to her novel:
"In a recent scientific article it was remarked that the basic and primal stock was probably female, and that males came along later, as a kind of cosmic afterthought.  I cannot believe that this was a trouble-free advent.  The idea was grist to an already active mill, for I had been wondering if men were not a younger type, a junior variation.  They lack the solidity of women, who seem to have been endowed with a natural harmony with the ways of the world.  I think most people would agree with this, even if a definition would be hard to come by.  Men in comparison are unstable, and erratic.
      Brooding about this whole questions sparked off speculation and then that spinning of the imagination that can lead to the birth of stories.  Here is one tale about what might have happened when Clefts first gave birth to a baby boy.
Man does, woman is - Robert Graves"

Don't worry, her take on this tale is surprisingly balanced... I thought.  Have you read any Doris Lessing?  What do you think of her?  Insightful or raving feminist?

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