• CommentAuthorpeter
    • CommentTimeNov 13th 2008
    As Harriet mentions in [her comment on Page 5](http://thegoldennotebook.org/book/p5/ "The Golden Notebook Page 5") the New York Times recently ran a piece titled [How To read Like A President](http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/books/review/Meacham-t.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=the%20golden%20notebook&st=cse&oref=slogin&oref=slogin "New York Times: How to read Like A President"):

    > When I asked him by e-mail to send a list of books and writers that were most significant to him, Obama offered American standards: The Federalist, Jefferson, Emerson, Lincoln, Twain, W. E. B. Du Bois’s “Souls of Black Folk,” King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon.” Among writers from abroad, he singles out Graham Greene (“The Power and the Glory” and “The Quiet American”), **Doris Lessing (“The Golden Notebook”**), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “Cancer Ward” and Gandhi’s auto­biography.

    Harriet raised the point that perhaps it was the oratory and poetry that resonanted with Obama:

    >Lessing may reveal part of the link right here: the artist as hero. What kind of empire does a poet build? A sense of artistry–poetry–channeled King and Gandhi into Obama’s rhetoric [...] Can we find in this novel something about what public poetry requires, what it is to speak with a voice that calls rather than commands or demands?

    It's a great point. But I'm also interested in what a man (who was raised in a family of women, and who is now the father of two daughters) such as Obama takes from *The Golden Notebook*. What does the novel say about women in politics? About Africa? I'd be interested to know how readers think it has influenced his worldview - and why is it considered by him to be so influential? What can we read into his presidency from a close reading of the book?
    I confess I'm stumped, wondering in what way Obama relates to GN. I'd understand more if he'd cited one of her books that takes place in Africa, but maybe I'm stereotyping. I never expect men to actually relate to GN; I always suspect they just want to have Lessing in their repertoire, and choose this one because it's her most well-known. I would be much more impressed if he'd mentioned something like "A Proper Marriage" or "Landlocked" or anything less well-known. Still, it's lovely that my President has read and even cites Doris Lessing as an influence.
    There's a lot more to the golden notebook than women's issues; it's almost a political summary of about 30 years of euro-african history and thinking; I'm not surprised that Obama would cite it, just pleasantly surprised that he read it - I find few people who have. I'll bet he's read the whole Children from the Storm series, and is using the Golden Notebook as a proxy for the Lessing experience.
    • CommentAuthormartine
    • CommentTimeNov 17th 2008
    I'd bet my original copies of GN that sarkozy hasn't even heard of it