Saturday, December 8, 2007
The Tall Corn Motel: A variation“Is there anything we can talk about that would push you over the edge for my Mom?”
Last night Doris Lessing, aged 88, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
In her acceptance speech she recalls her childhood in Africa and laments that children in Zimbabwe are starving for knowledge, while those in more privileged countries shun reading for the 'inanities' of the internet .
Reading, books, used to be part of a general education. Older people, talking to young ones, must understand just how much of an education reading was, because the young ones know so much less.But here is the difficulty. Writing, writers, do not come out of houses without books.
I have been looking at the speeches by some of the recent Nobel prizewinners.
Take last year's winner, the magnificent Orhan Pamuk. He said his father had 500 books. His talent did not come out of the air, he was connected with the great tradition. Take VS Naipaul. He mentions that the Indian Vedas were close behind the memory of his family. His father encouraged him to write, and when he got to England he would visit the British Library. So he was close to the great tradition. Let us take John Coetzee. He was not only close to the great tradition, he was the tradition: he taught literature in Cape Town. And how sorry I am that I was never in one of his classes; taught by that wonderfully brave, bold mind. In order to write, in order to make literature, there must be a close connection with libraries, books, the tradition.
It is not possible to estimate this great waste of talent, of potential.
But even before that stage of a book's creation which demands a publisher, an advance, encouragement, there is something else lacking.Writers are often asked: "How do you write? With a word processor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand?" But the essential question is: "Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?
Your soul, your own and necessary place where your own voices may speak to you, you alone, where you may dream. Oh, hold on to it, don't let it go."