100 pages into ‘The Golden Notebook’

I’m a little over a hundred pages into The Golden Notebook by Dorris Lessing. Published in 1962 it became known as a classic feminist book. So far it seems to be more concentrated on race relations in British African colonies and communist thought around World War II. The characters are promoting communism, and that’s the core focus of their group. Every time you read a book that was written a long time ago, and takes place in a firm historic period, you compare it to your own time. At least I do.  So far I’m finding this book thought provoking, and I’m reading it quickly. I started it yesterday.

It starts with two female friends catching up and a male father of one of their child’s visits. Tensions between all three are brought out. The man is a rich business man, one of the women was the author of one novel, and I’m not sure what the other woman did. Anyway, the man firmly dismissed the communist lore of his youth, while the woman did not. The author lived off of royalties from the book, and the both lived a bohemian life not in poverty.  After this scene it goes into the diary of the women that wrote a book and goes back about fifteen years or so to World War II when their group was active in an African Colony. There are several characters mostly from privileged backgrounds that discussed political thoughts. I like that she describes some as believers and other as simply adapting to their environment.  I still have 500 odd pages to go, so I’m not going to go into the rest of the story line because I do not know it.

Lessing, as she describes this group, makes it sound as if a lot of British people wanted communism during World War II. In the thirties and the depression I could understand this ideal. However during World War II I’m sure there was a movement then, but my guess is the majority of people were more engaged in the war. Talking with my roommate today he said that a lot of times in literature the writer exaggerates the subject to create interest. As a result sometimes they create scenes for their readers out of their imagination.  In this colony the whole group is communist in some way. In the introduction written in the 1990’s the author admits that communism was failing and not as important today. Reading this today of all these characters into a cause, I think that everyone now is indifferent.

I am not an exception to not caring, I only vote every four years and rarely keep up with the news. The Golden Notebook was written in 1962 and the following decade changed the world.  Popularity of new shows like Mad Men confirm that there will always be interest in this time period. I think it has to do with world events, and advances in music and media that impacted the future. From reading this book and my previous knowledge of the era, it seems to me that people had group discussions and common goals. I think people of my generation are very scattered in lifestyles and what defines them. If you take music today you have pop, hip hop, country, electronic, trance and whatever. I don’t think there is any music that could define today, that everyone would listen to.  I love books and reading, but I don’t think a book could change a generation. In grad school one of my professors said the work is getting more specialized. That people do less of variety of things, but are really good at one skill or a few skills. In general people do less than they did 50 years ago. It used to be someone in the family could fix a problematic toilet, but not anymore. I think that peoples’ interests are getting more specific and less connected all the time. With my work I’m a librarian. In my personal life I skateboard, read, and watch sports. There are quite a few people that I do not connect with, when perhaps if I was my age in the 1950’s maybe I would have.

Reading this novel and from several other classic books I read I notice that the characters are having dialogues and in depth conversations. I think that is missing from today’s world. It seems like the only way to socialize with a group is in a bar, and the music is always too loud to hear anyone anyway. Or people talk about American Idol or benign things. Another thing I talk about with my roommate is that maybe computers are not such a good thing. He said it seems to be creating an isolationist culture, people create their own vacuum with the computer, and do not socialize as much as they should. I agree that computers are changing the way people interact. I have never been political and never well be, but I wouldn’t mind meeting with groups to talk about something, anything. It seems today for that you have to take a class of some kind to discuss or learn.

Well, I’m going to read the rest of The Golden Notebook and I hope it makes me think some more.

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