Friday 12 October 2007

Doris Lessing Says It All…

"Oh Christ! ... I couldn't care less." Was Doris Lessing’s response yesterday, as she climbed out of a taxi returning home from a shopping trip, on being told she had won the Nobel Prize for literature. I laughed so much it caused me to have a coughing fit.

Back in the 1970s Doris Lessing was told, by an officious representative of the Nobel Committee, that she would “never” win the Nobel prize, so she put all thought of it out of her mind. She speculated, yesterday, that she had been told this because she’d written a series of science fiction novels, The Shikasta books. If this is true then the people who made that decision should hand their heads in shame. The Shikasta books were how I first started reading her work and how I discovered the wonderful writing of Doris Lessing. She has an amazing ability to examine the world around her with a razor sharp skill.

But, in the end, are literary prizes important? Doris Lessing has won almost every one of them there is to but if she had won none of them would that have made her any lesser of writer, I think not.

My school introduced a prize for creative writing, but I only heard of it when the winner was announced. You see, the only pupils that could enter it were the ones in the top stream for English, and I not being so was automatically barred from it. The girl who won it that first never won another word after she left school, until like me.

Most years, when they announce the short list and then the winner for the Booker Prize I am left with the feeling “Who picks these books?” They nominate books I would not want to read, let alone books I actually have read. It seems to being popular is an automatic bar to nomination, like not being in the top set for English.

I’m with Doris Lessing, "Oh Christ! ... I couldn't care less." I’d much rather people read what I wrote.