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Doris Lessing: A Bill Moyers Essay
Doris Lessing
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October 12, 2007

On October 11, 2007, Doris Lessing became the oldest person to win the Nobel Prize. In typical Lessing fashion, she was less than overawed remarking:

"I can't say I'm overwhelmed with surprise. I'm 88 years old and they can't give the Nobel to someone who's dead, so I think they were probably thinking they'd probably better give it to me now before I've popped off."

Of course there is ample reason that Lessing has been in the running for so many years. A simple Internet search for Doris Lessing brings up over 958,000 Web links. There are sites in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Swedish. Some of Lessing's science fiction has been adapted as opera. Her THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK is a standard text for Women's Studies college courses. Just as THE GOOD TERRORIST makes appearances in many political science classrooms and her fiction on English department reading lists. Her latest novel is "The Cleft," published by HarperCollins in July.

For more about Doris Lessing's large and varied body of work view an annotated bibliography.

Lessing has long been celebrated for her frankness in documenting life and culture. The Nobel Committee called her "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny." Here in a 2003 exchange with Bill Moyers she reflects on what she expects from the world:

BILL MOYERS: Well, you remind me of something you said in volume one of your autobiography. Quote, nothing in history suggest that we may expect anything but wars, tyrants, sickness, bad times, calamities. While good times are always temporary. Why are we so bitterly surprised, you write, when our country, the world, lurches into yet another muddle or catastrophe. Why is it that so many people in our time, you write, have felt all the emotions of betrayed children?

DORIS LESSING: Well, now that fascinates me. Where did it come from? Particularly the 1960s kids onwards. Everyone seemed to think that they were promised paradise? Well, who promised it to them? And I meet people, who are genuinely aggrieved that things are not perfect. That they haven't had paradise.

>Watch her full interview with Bill Moyers.

Doris Lessing has long expressed frustration with being categorized as a feminist writer, a science-fiction writer, a post-imperial writer, a former communist writer or any other label. She is simply a writer:
I do have different kinds of readers. Some of them hate, for example, my so-called science fiction, and others hate my realistic fiction, and so on, and so on. I was once in San Francisco when in the audience, a man stood up and said, "I hope you're not gonna waste any more time writing your realistic fiction." And then, somebody else stood up, and said, "I hope you're not going to waste any more time writing science fiction." And they got into bitter argument, and I just sat and listened. --Doris Lessing

Published on October 12, 2007

Related Media:
Bill Moyers talks with Doris Lessing
In 2003, Bill Moyers talked with Lessing about life, politics and the process of writing.

BILL MOYERS ON FAITH & REASON
Bill Moyers takes on the persistent questions facing us today with some of the world's most noted authors.

Maxine Hong Kingston
Bill Moyers sits down with Chinese-American author Maxine Hong Kingston to discuss poetry, war and the transformative power of stories.

References and Reading:
Doris Lessing: A Retrospective
The site includes a complete links to many online articles, bibliography, biography and selected interviews.

A Notorious Life
SALON interviewed Doris Lessing back in 1997.

NEW YORK TIMES Featured Author Profile
Read copious reviews of Lessings books, as well as articles about her, and listen to an audio special entitled: "Doris Lessing at The 92nd St. Y."

Q&A: Doris Lessing
By Harvey Blume, THE BOSTON GLOBE, August 5, 2007

Also This Week:

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Veteran market watcher Robert Kuttner and Wall Street insider William H. Donaldson give their read of the current economic landscape and discuss the risks of the deregulation of the financial industry.

ANOUAR MAJID
Bill Moyers talks to Professor Anouar Majid about diversity in the American tradition and its implications for Muslim society.

HONORING DORIS LESSING
A Bill Moyers essay on recent Nobel Prize in Literature recipient, Doris Lessing.

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