Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook

Hump Day

We’re halfway through our six weeks, I’m halfway through the book. Time for a few random musings on the project so far.

I’m certainly experiencing this novel in a new and intriguing way. I see that last week I was worried that I was losing a form of communion with the novelist. However, in the past week I’ve found a new kind of communion: I’m talking about this novel much more than I usually talk about novels I’m reading.

Every time I have dinner with or chat online to a friend The Golden Notebook seems to be coming up. Is this simply because it’s a densely-written book with a lot to say about women’s lives today? I don’t think it’s just that. Even when I’ve been reading other very serious and important books I haven’t brought them up in conversation this much.

I suspect it’s because the conversation involved in this project has moved the book from being a solitary experience in my mind to a social one. I want all my friends to be reading it too. I want them to be able to talk about it with me. And the project has given me an opening: I see where the conversational topics are in it, because we’ve explored them a little. I had Friday night dinner with Orthodox Jewish friends last week and we ended up talking heatedly about men’s and women’s roles in life because of this book. (We disagreed. But in a friendly way.)

Other thoughts. I’m starting to wonder how else one could apply this format. I’d love to try it with a short story. Something you could easily read ten times in the course of, say, a two-week discussion. I’d love to see a text where every paragraph was annotated. The Golden Notebook’s so rich that six weeks barely scratches the surface.

And, on a similar theme, I’d love to do a project where everyone involved knew the text well. Or one where everyone was new to it. What would it be like if instead of posting to this site we were cutting-and-pasting Instant Messenger conversations?

No wonder I can’t stop talking about it. This project is making my mind race.

Author avatar

Naomi Alderman
on November 29th, 2008 at 3:59 pm