Friday, 12 October 2007


So, the world has a new Nobel Prize for Literature laureate: Doris Lessing, the octogenarian sometime science-fiction writer, Sufist, feminist and ex-Marxist. I'm glad about that - I like Doris Lessing very much, ever since forced to read some of her short fiction by the lecturer in my Reading Science Fiction module I took in my first year of university. Oh, Doris Lessing, how I do love thee, let me count the ways:

  1. Unlike other writers who I won't stoop to naming (well, okay, Margeret Atwood), she was never ashamed to admit that she wrote science fiction, and her novels were often explicitly part of that genre. She once remarked that some of the finest writing of all time was science fiction - and the literary world needs people like that to stand up and say such things, given that the elites still regard the genre as pulpy tripe.
  2. She was a tough, strong and independent woman, but refused to let herself be caught up in the "ideology" of feminism. (She was very even-handed in regard to both sexes, saying in 2001 that modern women are 'smug and self-righteous' and 'too quick to denigrate men' - which was seen as a 'controversial' view at the time, but nobody noticed that she was indirectly pointing the finger at men too, for allowing themselves to be 'rubbished and cowed' by women.)
  3. She took her award with typical British self-deprecation, saying that "they can't give a Nobel to someone who's dead so I think they were probably thinking they had better give it to me now before I popped off."

Anyway, I noticed something interesting about the way the modern media works in the coverage of the story. Compare this report, from the morning, with this later one from the same news source. In the first, more truthful version, Doris comes across as a pugnacious old battle axe, saying "Oh Christ...I couldn't care less!" when first told about the award, before remarking, "I've won the all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I'm delighted to win them all, the whole lot, okay?" and "I'm already thinking about all the people who are going to send me begging letters..."

But the later report abandoned the realism and altered her quote (the only one reproduced) to "I've won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I'm delighted to win them all. It's the royal flush," which I'm sure you agree sounds much nicer but also much less sarcastic and much less interesting than the original.

The Committee really shot themselves in the foot with the Al Gore award, though. Say what you like about climate change and An Inconvenient Truth, what exactly does trying to save the environment have to do with World Peace?

I have a strong suspicion about Al Gore, you know. And it's this: the only reason why he has become something of a champion of the liberal centre-left is that he isn't George Bush. Such people like to watch him on TV or at the cinema and listen to him speak, gaze at him admiringly, and say "If only, if only he could have been President. The world would be such a better place." It's almost better for him and them that he lost, because it will forever be one of those "if onlies". And, as we all know, there is nothing more bitter-sweet than the noble hero who tragically fails at the last gasp.

But that's a pretty poor reason to award someone a Nobel Prize for Peace.


zero_zero_one said...

I've not read any Margaret Atwood, but I've come across interviews etc with her. I think it was when she was being interviewed about Oryx and Crake (a tale, so I've heard, set in the future and starring several genetically engineered creatures) that I more or less decided that I would never read any Margaret Atwood ever, just on principle.

I'm paraphrasing, but her remarks were along the lines of "This isn't science fiction because there aren't any aliens or rayguns!" "This isn't science fiction because genetic engineering is a reality!"

noisms said...

Yeah. I've read two of her books. In The Handmaid's Tale the story is set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic society where only around 5% of the female population can have babies.

In The Blind Assassin, the two main characters make up a story together about a futuristic dystopia, in between bouts of energetic sex.

But they're not science fiction, because there are no aliens and rayguns, silly.

mattiecore said...

For some odd reason I though that Lessing had already won the Nobel Prize for Lit. ... Obviously I was confused.

Gosh, I'm sick to death of Al Gore. I'm definitely more Liberal than anything, but I honestly don't think Al Gore would have been a very good president. Thank goodness I wasn't old enough to vote in the 2000 election, because I probably would have gone the "lesser of two evils" route.