Today is Saturday, November 22, 2014

Through the tunnel

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I particularly enjoy your comments on literature, my favorite subject in high school. I noticed Doris Lessing has passed away. I believe we read a story by her. Right?

-You Were One of My Teachers 

In an article dated Nov. 17, 2013, The New York Times book section observed, “Doris Lessing on the Nobel Prize: When reporters in 2007 told Ms. Lessing that she had won the Nobel Prize for literature, she said, ‘I couldn’t care less.’”

A clue to the complex character Doris Lessing was.

The story today’s QP of T (Question Person of Today) remembers? “Through the Tunnel.”

“… Jerry decides he wants to be able to swim through the tunnel with the other boys, but he doesn't know if he can make it. After he shows the boys he has the guts to jump off the rock, he wants to prove that he is man enough to swim through the tunnel in the rock... Jerry knew at first, that he would not be able to swim throughout the tunnel without taking a breath of air, so he did exercises … Jerry convinced his mother to buy him goggles, which he needed to see where the tunnel begins. On the day before Jerry and his mother were leaving for home, Jerry decided that it was the time to show what he was made of, and swim through the tunnel. He prepared himself and dived. At first he felt like an ‘inflated balloon,’ he could hold his breath forever, but as the tunnel became darker and eerie, he started to panic and lose his control…” Emmahopkins.eshs (online)

Sound familiar? It’s a well-constructed piece capturing the challenges of growing up, and the desire and effort needed to meet these challenges, perhaps only to satisfy oneself.

Ms. Lessing died Nov. 10, 2013, at the age of 94.

“Doris Lessing was born Doris May Tayler in Persia (now Iran) on October 22, 1919. Both of her parents were British… In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)…

“Lessing has described her childhood as an uneven mix of some pleasure and much pain. The natural world, which she explored with her brother, Harry, was one retreat from an otherwise miserable existence… Lessing was later sent to an all-girls high school in the capital of Salisbury, from which she soon dropped out. She was thirteen; and it was the end of her formal education. [Another source says she was 14.] … She recently commented that unhappy childhoods seem to produce fiction writers. ‘Yes, I think that is true. Though it wasn't apparent to me then. Of course, I wasn't thinking in terms of being a writer then -- I was just thinking about how to escape, all the time.’ The parcels of books ordered from London fed her imagination, laying out other worlds to escape into. Lessing's early reading included Dickens, Scott, Stevenson, Kipling; later she discovered D.H. Lawrence, Stendhal,Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. Bedtime stories also nurtured her youth: her mother told them to the children and Doris herself kept her younger brother awake, spinning out tales. Doris's early years were also spent absorbing her father’s bitter memories of World War I, taking them in as a kind of ‘poison.’ ‘We are all of us made by war,’ Lessing has written, ‘twisted and warped by war, but we seem to forget it.’ From the pamphlet: A Reader's Guide to The Golden Notebook & Under My Skin, HarperPerennial, 1995

Again from The New York Times: “Ms. Lessing produced dozens of novels, short stories, essays and poems, drawing on a childhood in the Central African bush, the teachings of Eastern mystics and involvement with grass-roots Communist groups. She embarked on dizzying and, at times, stultifying literary experiments. But it was her breakthrough novel, The Golden Notebook, a structurally inventive and loosely autobiographical tale, that remained her best-known work. The 1962 book was daring in its day for its frank exploration of the inner lives of women who, unencumbered by marriage, were free to raise children, or not, and pursue work … as they chose.”

Interpretations of her work often infuriated her. Her complex life included three children (two of whom she refused to rear) and two husbands.

“But in discussing her writing in 2008, she said: ‘It has stopped; I don’t have any energy anymore. This is why I keep telling anyone younger than me, don’t imagine you’ll have it forever. Use it while you’ve got it because it’ll go; it’s sliding away like water down a plug hole.’ ” The New York Times.

Through the tunnel?

ONLINE DEPARTMENT “Sometimes Kids are the Only Ones Who Make Sense!” (Thanks, P.K.) ▪A three-year-old boy went with his dad to see a litter of kittens. On returning home, he breathlessly informed his mother, "There were 2 boy kittens and 2 girl kittens." "How did you know?" his mother asked. "Daddy picked them up and looked underneath," he replied. "I think it's printed on the bottom."▪ Another three-year-old put his shoes on by himself. His mother noticed that the left shoe was on the right foot. She said, "Son, your shoes are on the wrong feet." He looked up at her with a raised brow and said, "Don't kid me, Mom. They're the only feet I got!" ▪ On the first day of school, about midmorning, the kindergarten teacher said, "If anyone has to go to the bathroom, hold up two fingers." A little voice from the back of the room asked, "How will that help?" ▪ A mother and her young son returned from the grocery store and began putting away the groceries. The boy opened the box of animal crackers and spread them all over the table. "What are you doing?" his mother asked. "The box says not to eat them if the seal is broken," the boy explained. "I'm looking for the seal." ▪A father was at the beach with his children when his four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore, where a seagull lay dead in the sand. "Daddy, what happened to him?" the son asked. "He died and went to Heaven," the dad replied. The boy thought a moment and then said, "Did God throw him back down?" ▪ After the church service a little boy told the pastor, "When I grow up, I'm going to give you some money." "Well, thank you," the pastor replied, "but why?" "Because my daddy says you're the poorest preacher we've ever had."

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