In this special series, we asked writers we admire to share a book they're giving to their friends and family this holiday season. Check back daily to see the books your favorite authors are gifting.
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Well, I had my sights set on an entirely different wonderful novel by a woman, and then Doris Lessing died.
Her broad face and transparent eyes. Her unruly hair. Her brilliant, unkempt mind that took language to the interstices between the socius, the sexual, the intellectual. Her deep understanding of why we have to reject the scripts life hands us as so-called "women." Her smile and laugh and sharp-witted responses to the banality of media coming at her. The beauty of her imagination.
I choose The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing because the book changed my life path by giving me permission to write away from the Great White Western Male tradition. With abandon and pleasure and fire. In this book you will find not a traditional plot, but layers of writing and meaning that one must piece together to find the story. You will find how tenuous the line between subjectivity — a real woman's life, body, and mind — and narrative is, which is, whether we admit it or not, the form we give to being and knowing. My words are better because Doris Lessing's came first. She taught me to let the forms my particular life and body travel, speak. Preferably loudly and without flinching. She makes the "lists" that pop up yearly with the "great" authors look, well, puny.
Why it gives me such deep and profound pleasure to give books, and in particular this book, as gifts, is this: "For she was of that generation who, having found nothing in religion, had formed themselves through literature." (Doris Lessing) So here. You're welcome:
"For women like me, integrity isn't chastity, it isn't fidelity, it isn't any of the old words. Integrity is the orgasm. That is something I haven't any control over." –Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
"You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldn't care a damn about anybody else at all. But writing can't be a way of life — the important part of writing is living. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it." –Doris Lessing
"We are all creatures of the stars." –Doris Lessing, Shikasta