Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Cleft

Every one and their grand uncle has a theory on relationships and how men and women can be at cross purposes while trying to be together. The marketplace is pullulating with the Women from Venus, Men from Mars genre books. But when Doris Lessing takes on this most weary chestnut of themes, she turns it on its head in her characteristically beguiling way. In The Cleft, she muses the eternal question about how men and women came to that fork on the road that took each to a different, quite unrelated place in the end. It is a novel. She refers to the male of the human species as:

'a younger type, a junior variation. They seem to lack the solidity of women, who seem to be endowed with a natural harmony with the ways of the world ... men in comparison are unstable, erratic. Is Nature trying something out?'

The book has not received the best reviews and the complaints are numerous - the plot is half-baked, the characters are overly simplistic among other things. The Washington Post says "It is an actively bad novel". Lessing responds to the critics in this interview.

Listen, I feel -- I'm sure I've said this before but I'll say it again -- there's a kind of problem between critics and writers. A writer falls in love with an idea and gets carried away. A critic looks at the finished product and ignores the rush of a river that went into the writing, which has nothing to do with the kind of temperate thoughts you have about it.

If you can imagine the sheer bloody pleasure of having an idea and taking it! It's one of the great pleasures in my life. My god, an idea!

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