Tuesday 10 September 2013

We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become - Ursula Le Guin

I am so very tired. Drained, in fact. Drained of energy, emotion. Everything. Much to do with the fact I'm moving. House. Home. Country. But that's another story. And another blog.

However, that's not all. I've just been to Paris with work for a meeting. A long journey to my favourite city. But without the fun. The visits, the photos, the caf├ęs. This was a straight there and back. With only tantalising glimpses of the architect and monuments and museums through taxi Windows to feed my frustration.

Top this with the intensive reading of Doris Lessing's The Good Terrorist during the journey. Pushed by the desire to finish it. And be done. Which I did. And have done. Kind of. Because as much as I love DL's easy, expressive, intimate style, this tale was hard to shake. It pulls you in. As much as you may resist. And I did.

TGT follows Alice, a 30-something middle class drop-out, moving into a London squat with fellow revolutionaries. Without comment or judgement, DL tells of the interactions of Alice with the man she loves, her fellow housemates, her family and the Authorities. Underlying the whole is a sizzling anger and violence that will ultimately find expression.

This is a bleak tale. Full of broken people seeing a broken society. And nobody knowing truly how to fix it. Except by breaking it some more.

Alice epitomises the confusion. Vehemently rejecting her parents' world of so-called luxury, she spends the entire book trying to bring order and comfort to the squat. Through little "luxuries". She yearns for a man who has moved on from her. And, it would seem, her sex. And thus openly rejects her. She rails at the injustices and abuse of the ruling classes and yet imposes her own injustices and abuse on her family.

And while at first you sympathise with this vulnerable girl who would seem to be a victim, as the book goes on, Alice's unstable mind is only oppressive and disturbing and its ramblings become more clearly incoherent.  DL said of her: "the girl is of course quite mad. This confirms what I have said so often in this context: if a mad person is in a political setting, or a religious one, a lot of people won't even notice he or she is mad. A theme for our times, indeed". Indeed, some more.

So now I'm drinking cider and hugging my cats. Trying to shake off the bleakness. And I'm already feeling better. And wondering which book will be next from my Classics Club challenge list. I think I need something light and airy. Just not seeing anything... Any suggestions?

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