Wow, a Nobel for Doris Lessing!

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NYT story here. Like so many women, The Golden Notebook made a profound impression on me when I was in college. A much more recent book, Love, Again, was terrific too. I didn’t like The Sweetest Dream so much, the most recent Lessing book I read, but so what, I’m still really thrilled by this.

–Ann Bartow

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0 Responses to Wow, a Nobel for Doris Lessing!

  1. Ralph M. Stein says:

    Ah, the sweet rewards of a Nobel: friends!

    From The New York Times:

    October 15, 2007
    Link By Link
    Even in MySpace, a Friend Has to Qualify
    By NOAM COHEN

    OH, so now you want to be Doris Lessing’s friend?

    Ms. Lessing, the 87-year-old writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, could be seen last week sitting on the steps of her house in London, encircled by TV crews.”Now I’m going to go in to answer my telephone,”she said, excusing herself after a few moments.”I swear I’m going upstairs to find some suitable sentences, which I will be using from now on.”

    The Nobel Prize wasn’t the only big news for Ms. Lessing last week. As a result of all the publicity, more than 100 people signed up to be her friend on MySpace.

    Generally speaking, MySpace is a social-networking site more popular with teenagers than with”epicists,”the Nobel committee’s term for Ms. Lessing in its citation that praised her for writing”with skepticism, fire and visionary power.”Yet by this weekend, Ms. Lessing had 240 MySpace friends, up from 125 or so before all the hubbub.

    Maria from Chile, for one, was thrilled to make a new acquaintance, leaving a message at Ms. Lessing’s MySpace page:”Thanks for accepting my request, I would love to read your works. Congratulations for the Nobel Prize, but above all, for being who you are! I loved to see you so humble and down to earth when you knew about the prize.”

    Jan Hanford, the Lessing fan turned Lessing friend who runs her Web site and MySpace page, says she began the tribute in 1995 as part of her own Web site, and that later, with Ms. Lessing’s permission, moved it to http://www.dorislessing.org.”I want to put Doris out there,”she said.”People want to feel connected with people they admire.”

    •

    Ms. Hanford, who operates online businesses and divides her time between Berkeley, Calif., and London, said with a little chagrin that Ms. Lessing had told her that she has never been on the Internet and had never even glimpsed her MySpace page, which Ms. Hanford created about a year ago.

    “She is not an Internet person,”Ms. Hanford said, adding that she communicates with Ms. Lessing by phone, fax and the mail to update the site and MySpace page and to share visitors’ comments.”She understands it is a huge, important thing in people’s lives. She just doesn’t feel she needs to use it. Friends of hers have tried to show it to her.”

    Ms. Lessing’s sites have nothing commercial about them by design, Ms. Hanford said, though it must be said that Ms. Lessing through her online strategy is inadvertently hewing to an important new-media precept : corporate synergy. MySpace is owned by the News Corporation, as is Ms. Lessing’s publisher, HarperCollins.

    Ms. Lessing’s MySpace page was news to the HarperCollins online marketing manager, Jeffrey Yamaguchi, who himself was organizing e-mail blasts to spread the word about the Nobel Prize. In the world of publishing, Mr. Yamaguchi’s job can be seen as much as evangelist as strategist.

    Still, he rejected the knee-jerk view that older authors ignore the Internet and younger people embrace it.

    “Age is not determinative,”he said”Sometimes a young author will come through and they won’t have a blog. I hear that they are not interested and I am not surprised. I kind of get it. It can be very time consuming and becomes a double-edged thing. If you are writer you have to be writing.”

    An insight he said he had picked up over time about authors, however, was that,”if an editor says around the table ‘we don’t e-mail,’ that’s an indication that he probably won’t be blogging.”

    He said his most important piece of advice to authors was that maintaining an online presence”is time consuming. If you are going to do it, you have to put some time into it. You don’t have to do something every day, but it has to be a time commitment.”

    One online marketing success story at HarperCollins, Mr. Yamaguchi said, was Roger Director, who has written a season-long memoir about the New York Giants,”I Dream in Blue: Life, Death, and the New York Giants.”He has a MySpace page (with 110 friends or so) and has created a music video posted on YouTube promoting the book.

    Mr. Director said that HarperCollins spent more time on his MySpace page than on the company’s site for the book.

    “The publisher wanted me to have a MySpace page,”he said.”They felt it would be a good way for me to be in touch with other Giants fans, with groups of fans looking for thoughts and opinions.”

    “Right now I don’t have enough friends,”he said.”I envy Doris Lessing, both her literary career and her number of MySpace friends.”

    •

    Ms. Lessing’s MySpace page prominently states that she”is not online and does not access this page,”but a casual visitor could be momentarily confused. The novelist’s profile mentions that she is divorced and a Libra; she drinks, but doesn’t smoke. No word on what music she likes or if she is a fan of”The Office.”

    And even though the collegiate crowd on Facebook might seem a more natural fit for Ms. Lessing, Ms. Hanford said she would not be migrating to the MySpace rival anytime soon, as many other non-teenagers have been doing lately.”Facebook is much more personal, more of a one-on-one thing,”she said.”MySpace is really a bunch of strangers who are connected.”

    But Ms. Hanford said she was still wary of poseurs. She says she vets a potential MySpace friend’s profile by reading what they enter under the”Books”heading.

    “If it says, ‘I hate them, I never read them,’ then I reject them,”she said.