The Grauniad celebrates a half-century of Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook by asking various writers what they think of it. The book is appalling, and one hopes will be forgotten before another half-century elapses. In her earlier novels and subsequently, Lessing is one of the best writers in English of any century – gripping narratives, superbly-judged choices of words, inviting and compelling voices, and a sharp observational intelligence. The Golden Notebook, however, is our Doris off her game. Self-indulgent, overly-long, poorly-structured, apparently unedited, it is a mis-mash of different stuff that looks as if it were put down once in a hurry and then, it seems, never re-read. To this reader, the book appears as some random ideas for a novel, or perhaps several, which were never reworked coherently: Clip some jottings together, put a cover on them, and call it post-modern – that should work. If art really is the doing of all things with artlessness, as Piet Hein once said*, then this book lacks even an attempt to be artful, as if the author was taking the michael, or worse.
There is but one art,
No more, no less:
To do all things
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