December 2003

Jessa Crispin

hundred books

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

I read the first couple hundred pages of The Golden Notebook enthusiastically. I liked Doris Lessingís way with words. I liked her dissection of this woman as an artist. I took notes on the book, talked about it with friends, and rethought my theory on gender and writing.

Then, around page 400, something happened. It began to feel like work. It wasnít that the tone had changed or that the book suddenly became a lecture. It is not possible to race through the book with enthusiasm. Everything needs a moment of reflection. The book began to repeat itself as well. Anna entered yet another destructive relationship, which by this time, had become a bore. There was continued disillusionment with the communist party. The last 260 pages were nearly impossible to read and I took to skimming.

Part of it is my own personal tastes. I can read about a man fucking up any day of the week, but to read about a woman in the wrong relationship or making an ass out of herself pains me. I donít want to read it. I sigh and roll my eyes, thinking to myself, ďWhat a twit.Ē Iím perfectly aware of what that says about me, but even knowing my personal prejudices didnít help make the book go down.

The Golden Notebook is brilliant. I can see that, I can tell it is important. However, it is a cold work of art. Nothing about it is enrapturing or enthusiastic. It keeps you at a distance for the entire book and leaves you feeling alone. It makes me wonder what the feminists latched onto when they made the book synonymous with womenís studies classes.

I donít think this is a book to be read on your couch drinking tea. This is a book to be studied. Dissected. Discussed with many other people for its deep meaning. If it hadnít been for 100 Books, I doubt I would have finished the book on my own even though I admired it. It felt too much like homework without the incentive of failing my class if I didnít finish. And in a classroom perhaps the chill wouldnít have bothered me so much.