The Grass is Singing

The Grass is Singing Doris Lessing

In the back of my edition (Harper Perennial/Modern Classics) there is a section “Meet Doris Lessing”, from which I mined this reference in regard to The Golden Notebook:

“Attacked for being “unfeminine” in her depiction of female anger and aggression, Lessing responded, “Apparently what many women were thinking, feeling, experiencing came as a great surprise.”

Women are such surprising creatures—a woman writer especially so when she writes something that is unexpected or perhaps seen as unbecoming—or some such nonsense, apparently being honest, speaking her mind, and telling it like it is unlady-like. Whatever—

The Grass is Singing is one of those books that can be painful to read because of its honesty—the true story of what was—the brutal spell of an unforgiving history. I truly love Doris Lessing’s writing—after reading The Golden Notebook a few months ago, I decided I needed to start from the beginning and read her very first novel. She’s consistent, gritty and grim—honest—isn’t it strange that such authenticity can emerge from fiction? Stories that are made up and full of a writer’s lies—veiled truths scratching an autobiographical itch, not necessarily about oneself, but from the vein of being a witness of such things—such things that you can’t make up because they really do happen. To write it down and put it out there is one way to tell the truth no matter how painful—the unfairness maddening. There’s a distinctive warmth that comes through in her work that makes it as unique as her DNA—this warmth is from her passion for writing, and there is patience in her prose. She insists that there is beauty in the ugliness of life and she wants to share it with her readers. The reality of women’s lives have not been glossed over here—not a man is left unsullied—the characters are flawed and true, no one is perfect (even the population who think they are the shit-don’t-stink cream-o’-the-crop, are far from perfect human beings.) Her stories about Africa fascinate me because it is so raw out there—the land and people have been so incredibly wounded by time, nature, conquerors, dictators, and ignorance. Doris Lessing packs so much power in words from page one to the last—this book is a rare beauty.

(Shhh—listen, the grass is singing.)