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Reading Anna Karenina in Africa
December 10, 2007 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech. "The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed."
posted by jokeefe (20 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
"How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?"
posted by Flashman at 2:01 PM on December 10, 2007


the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?

Psshhh. I can "cut free" anytime I want. In fact, I resolve to quit the internet and its seductive inanities first thing Monday morning!
posted by pardonyou? at 2:23 PM on December 10, 2007


"Congratulations to you, Doris Lessing,
Though your work is no great blessing.
Dour, cranky, and bloody dull,
Most of it in fact unreadable.
The windows caked with gloom,
Long dark shadows in the room,
The characters whiny, the dialogue dark,
Of humor not one tiny spark,
Your wooden prose like classroom benches
Boring, painful, and pretentious.
But now that you are 88
The Swedes decided you are great.
You win the prize, the golden cup.
So finally will you LIGHTEN UP? "
- G. Keillor
posted by The White Hat at 2:26 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think the storyteller in me is hiding, cuz it knows if I can grab it long enough I'll make it crank out that Great American Novel I've always wanted to publish to make me famous. It is hiding and refuses to come out cuz it knows my only interest for it is slave labor.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:28 PM on December 10, 2007


I'll quit tomorrow!
posted by Flashman at 2:29 PM on December 10, 2007


Good for her. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has been waiting for it to come-- a nobel prize for Lessing. And a truly great speech.

She thinks. My teacher said there was a library there, bigger than the supermarket, a big building, and it is full of books. The young woman is smiling as she moves on, the dust blowing in her face. [....] I will take them to the library, the place full of books, and they will go to school, and they will be teachers - my teacher told me I could be a teacher. They will live far from here, earning money. They will live near the big library and enjoy a good life.

[....]

That poor girl trudging through the dust, dreaming of an education for her children, do we think that we are better than she is - we, stuffed full of food, our cupboards full of clothes, stifling in our superfluities?

I think it is that girl and the women who were talking about books and an education when they had not eaten for three days, that may yet define us.


If this inspired you, you probably want to read a book by Jonathan Rose, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, which discusses British working-class autodidacts and the working-class origins of the Great Books idea. It's an inspiring book, and it's also a good example of intellectual history.
posted by honest knave at 2:35 PM on December 10, 2007


From the Sydney Morning Herald: New Nobel laureate Doris Lessing has used her acceptance speech to rail against the internet, saying it has "seduced a whole generation into its inanities" and created a world where people know nothing.

Or, in other words, the internet makes you stupid. This truly is something awful.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:44 PM on December 10, 2007


I've sort of warmed to Doris Lessing slightly in recent years. She is a disagreeable old cow, but I find myself sort of admiring, even relishing, her refusal to be agreeable. Even when she's wrong (quite often, I think) she adds some roughage to our excessively bland intellectual diet.
posted by Phanx at 3:00 PM on December 10, 2007


Strangely, when I was in Africa 12 years ago I handed a Peace Corps volunteer a copy of Anna Karenina, partially because I needed to lighten my load, partially because I had a crush on her. I can't even remember her name. Wonder what happened to her.

Oh, I gave it to her intact, not ripped into three parts.
posted by dw at 3:12 PM on December 10, 2007


Oh, this gives me such mixed feelings. I was elated when she won. Her "Children of Violence" series and many other books (before she delved into science fiction) largely helped form my reading tastes. She is somewhat right; I know I barely read newspapers or magazines anymore because of the Internet but I'll never give up books. And I don't think the Interwebs have made me any more stupid than I was before..

Perhaps Ms Lessing could crank out an inti-Internet version of Fahrenheit 451 (which was really about the detrimental effects of TV and mass media on reading, and not so much about censorship) while she's still got her faculties.
posted by fuse theorem at 3:51 PM on December 10, 2007


I bet there was a Doris Lessing of the 15th century who complained about the stupifying effect of the printing press.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:04 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


There were Greek Doris Lessings who complained about papyrus, too. That writing, it rots the mind, you know- the kids these days can't even memorize the Odyssey or the Iliad, much less both!
posted by louie at 4:08 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Or, in other words, the internet makes you stupid.

that's not what she said - she said, essentially, that the internet is no substitute for literature or culture
posted by pyramid termite at 4:39 PM on December 10, 2007


There were have Mesopotamians, too, annoyed at the emasculating effects of cuneiform writing, and the obsession of the youth of that day with that new-fangled Gilgamesh thing:

By Enki & Ereshkigal
Verily have I planted fields of bountiful wheat
But the young men trample my fields
Drinking sweet wine & talking of Gilgamesh
Go, ye, forsake my fields!
Make forth and smite the enemies of Uruk!

posted by UbuRoivas at 4:59 PM on December 10, 2007


have

i blame the internet.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:59 PM on December 10, 2007


To me, this whole piece is about the incredible role reading can have in lives where there's barely water to drink. Are you really going to bitch about her internet comment all night?
posted by Riverine at 7:38 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, we've all got plenty of water to drink, so that's not very relevant to us.

We're higher up on Maslow's hierarchy, where jibes at the internet assume greater importance than things like food, clothing, shelter or water.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:46 PM on December 10, 2007


To me, this whole piece is about the incredible role reading can have in lives where there's barely water to drink. Are you really going to bitch about her internet comment all night?

Thanks for that. I'm sorry that many people don't seem to have read past the one comment about the internet (I believe she's talking mostly about the constant noise of trivial information our lives are surrounded with; anyone care to disagree?).
posted by jokeefe at 10:09 PM on December 10, 2007


Doris Lessing interviewed on Radio 4 yesterday.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:20 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


And here's an interview from 1987 on storytelling.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:35 AM on December 11, 2007


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