Lessing, Revisted

To build off of Andy’s post below, I’d like to draw attention to today’s NYT reprint of an article written by Doris Lessing originally in 1992. The article, “Questions You Should Never Ask a Writer,” sharply dismantles the dogma which, in the 21st century, has replaced the 20th century’s ‘clever’ obsession with Communism: political correctness.

Lessing, who was awarded the 2007 Noble Prize in literature, not only attacks the PC virus with the vibrancy and verve of her right-wing counterparts—if she does “counter” them on any fronts anyways, which I’m not so sure about—but her particular emphasis on PCism’s deadening and dull effects on imaginative art proves that Lessing is an iconoclast, not a regurgitating parrot. Lessing distanced herself from the limiting political dogmas of the feminist/socialist/Marxist left, so to associate her with any of those things is not only unfair, it is just plain wrong.

In fact, many believe that Lessing fell out of favor with the feminist and academic crowd because she refused to see the world in feminist terms; as her own article shows, she ardently condemned the PC jargon that feminist and leftist radicals are heir to—right or left, she was above the pettiness of any chichi ideology, too smart of an individual to be involved with or endorse any of them. She was virulently anti-communist and saw too much of the Marxist totalitarian double-speak in the feminist movement to raise a glass with it. Lessing’s own sassy sense of right and wrong—her ability to think independently and apart from the root-hogs in the ideological herd—meant she was routinely ostracized by the literati of academia, getting no love from the left, nor from the right who had a difficult time reconciling her exotic books and shifting life with her sharpened mind.

So for those who are tempted to follow in Harold Bloom’s clod-hopping footsteps, I would recommend reading Lessing’s own thoughts on the matter; clearly she cannot be put into any ideological box by either the left or the right.

UPDATE: Cristopher Hitchens’ reaction. —A.S.