Week 5: The 1st 1/3 of the Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

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Since the challenge started I have been reading this book and was hoping to write about it once I finished it completely, but it’s all I’ve managed to pick up this week so here we are.

Has anyone else read The Golden Notebook? I can’t exactly recall where I heard about it but so far I am enjoying it. The concept of the novel is that it is comprised of several notebooks– black, red, yellow and blue, which are all woven together into the golden notebook as one full story. each of the notebooks cover different narratives– the black is about her time in Africa, the red about her political life as a communist, the yellow is a novel based on her experiences, and the blue is a personal diary.

A unique construction, this novel is a touch over 600 pages, and I am 172 pages deep. So far, I have learned about Anna– the main protagonist, and her friend Molly, from different time points in their lives. Much of what I have been reading so far is related to the communist party, and the cliches of political life that anyone who has been in organizing and such activities will know well– the long hours, the endless nights of conversations and arguments– the continual reevaluation of beliefs, and how to execute those beliefs well. One of the sentiments Anna describes is how often she finds herself defending the party simply to defend the party– not even because she agrees. She is torn because she knows the party is not perfect, far from it, and yet she cannot accept the status quo. Sound familiar?

In my work I am often looking for threads of literature, science, art from different points in time to help weave together something of a narrative. Much of my artwork is around deconstructing the pervasive and insidious nature of capitalism and expose the historical root system of the United States that is steeped in violence, human subjugation and consequently endless human suffering. This continues today– modern slavery is part of every electronic that connects our community. To deny this is to live in denial.

I mention this because this novel is giving me another lens- a British communist woman who is a writer looking for peace in a world upended by war. I am interested to see where this book takes my thoughts and where the story leads through all these notebooks. I must admit, I am not always sure which notebook I am in, but I am trying to relax and just read it through– getting to the finish line will feel like an accomplishment in and of itself.

To be continued!

6 comments on “Week 5: The 1st 1/3 of the Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing”

  1. Hang in there…or not. Several years ago I read a piece of advice about reading books that has stayed with me. If a book doesn’t fully captivate you after you’ve given it a good chance, you shouldn’t chide yourself about putting it aside. I don’t very often do it, but when I do it’s a freedom from what’s become a chore. I definitely recognize Doris Lessing’s name, but I don’t think I’ve read her. I’m thinking she may write poetry, and I heard about her in the ModPo Discussion Forums.

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  2. In your pursuit to deconstruct capitalism…you might find a BBC award winning documentary I came across about Edward Berney (the “Father of Public Relations” and Freud’s nephew) interesting. It’s several episodes long and added to my understanding of how we transitioned to a consumer culture. If you watch it, let me know your response. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9MB-VTBjXY

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    1. After I finish barfing I’ll get back to you LOL 🙂 Thanks for the rec– will check it out during my travel time!

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  3. Alison. I am impressed by your commitment to finishing this book. I have the book as well, and have felt very determined to get through it several times- and just keep starting and stopping. It is currently in my living room, reminding me to pick it back up…. I do plan to get back to it (maybe not in this reading challenge)- but your post has inspired me that I do hope to add this to my “finished” list at some point!

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    1. Nice to know that you also have been reading this slowly– it is not that the book is bad writing, or a bad story– but it is just one of those reads that will take me some time to fully appreciate. Reminds me of my first go through Middlemarch, and more recently my read of The Goldfinch. I’ll keep you posted, m!

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