A searching first biography of the celebrated literary rebel who continually reinvented herself and the world in her prodigious work, this book is based on exclusive interviews with the fascinating Doris Lessing's lovers, colleagues, and friends. This first biography of one of the twentieth century's most influential writers uncovers the woman that Lessing herself withheld in her autobiographical novels and memoirs. For beyond the courageous, resourceful figure who fearlessly challenges the status quo in works like the four-volume Children of Violence or Lessing's masterpiece Golden Notebook, this revealing study finds an emotionally fragile woman forever in search of her essential identity. Displaced and rebellious, Lessing also always broke the rules. Born in Persia to a hypercritical mother, and a father who had been shell-shocked in World War I, she was raised in Rhodesia. Twice married and divorced by the age of thirty, she moved to Britain with an unpublished manuscript in her suitcase and only one of her children in hand. An ardent Communist before and during World War II - when she was married to a German - she distanced herself from the Party shortly thereafter. Similarly, she ardently embraced and then discarded feminism. A prolific writer, she continued throughout her career to chart new territory, most famously with the series of science-fiction novels she submitted to her publisher under a pseudonym, and to reinvent the formidable persona masking the far more frangible self that this book reveals.
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Carole Klein (1933-2001) taught English, creative writing, and women's studies at Goddard College, the State University of New York, and New York University. She was also on the writing faculty of the New School and lectured widely on writing, women writers, women's issues, and cultural history. Among her best-known works are Aline and Gramercy Park.
Anna Fields (1965-2006), winner of more than a dozen Earphones Awards and the prestigious Audie Award in 2004, was one of the most respected narrators in the industry. Trained at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, she was also a director, producer, and technician at her own studio, Cedar House Audio.
When the prolific, multifaceted novelist Lessing (Ben; In the World; etc.) heard that several biographies of her were in the works, she wroteA"in self-defense"Atwo well-received books covering her first four decades before this first, disappointing biography could be published. In her own books, Lessing captured the more colorful and exuberant parts of her life: her childhood in Southern Rhodesia, her rebellious adolescence, her two unsuccessful marriages, her anticolonial political radicalism, her affiliation with the Communist Party and her literary debut in London's bohemian, intellectual circles. Klein (Aline; Gramercy Park), after a pallid paraphrased account of Lessing's version, is left to assemble other, less satisfactory sources on the remaining years, which cover Lessing's writings after The Golden Notebook, her experiments with radical psychology and her conversion to Sufism. Klein's interviews with Lessing's ex-friends and former colleagues are largely anonymousAand often filled with memories of her aloofness, irritability or vulnerability. Some are willing to go on record, such as Clancy Sigal, who was, at least in his own opinion, the great love of her life; Klein similarly takes full advantage of Lessing's correspondence with editor Robert Gottlieb. Otherwise, she depends on material from Lessing's previously published interviews and her often autobiographical fiction and nonfiction. Klein's psychological analysis of her subject lags after Lessing's own, without the irony and wit, and her striving for an objective viewpoint results, often, in merely noting Lessing's inconsistencies. Lessing entitled the first volume of her autobiography Under My SkinAwhich is where, for all Klein's research despite Lessing's disapproval, this biography never gets. B&w illus.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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