November 17th, 2013


Lessing the Lodger

I was sorry to hear of the death of Doris Lessing today. On the other hand, I've been trying to remember what, if anything, of hers I've actually read. I think I gave up on The Golden Notebook quite early; ditto The Cleft, though I heard her talk about the latter interestingly. My clearest association with her is that when she came to England she was a tenant of Joan Rodker, whom I knew as a characterful nonagenarian voice down the phone, back when my ex was writing a biography of Joan's stepmother, Mary Butts.

I seem to recall that Joan didn't appreciate the way she was portrayed in The GN, though I've no idea of the truth of it. I took to her, anyway. She had an earthy, downright way of talking that I've met in other women of that generation who've had to find their own way through the world - as Joan largely did. She'd spent time in Mexico, and generously gave my son (then about 8) an Olmec arrow head - which, even if he later lost it, was much appreciated. Joan also (which Wikipedia doesn't mention) owned the rights to Malleus Maleficarum, or at least to the version that her father John published back in the '20s. That's just cool. (Okay, The Discoverie of Witchcraft would have been cooler still.)