Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Naomi & Doris

I keep meaning to put a link to Naomi Alderman's considered final post on http://thegoldennotebook.org/blog/.
Here's how it opens:

Final thoughts

It’s been a few weeks now since I put down The Golden Notebook, and so I thought I’d use this space to share some thoughts and ideas I’ve been mulling over since our project came to an end.

It’s really been a fascinating process for me. Reading a book and discussing it with a group during the reading is an experience I haven’t had since English A-level at 18 years old. The excitement of posting a comment and waiting to see what response it got was immense. Making reading truly social - unlike book clubs, where one’s often half-forgotten the book by the time the club night comes round - was wonderful. I want to do it again, with other books.

The project has also caused me to reflect on my own feminism. Of course, that’s the nature of the novel, and in that sense the edges of The Golden Notebook are still razor-sharp. Why are women’s lives different to men’s lives? What is a true or authentic female sexuality? Is there hope for heterosexual relationships? These are still questions which get under the skin..."

Her piece concludes:

"So this project has inspired me to think through my personal gender manifesto.
1) Active pushing for women’s participation in our financial, corporate and political institutions.
2) Addressing areas where men’s rights and outcomes are worse than women’s.
3) Providing ideas about how loving, equal relationships between men and women can be created and sustained.
I’m grateful for that. It’s a lot more clarity than I had before.

And it’s also encouraged me to feel gratitude. I’ve been reading the work of a rather less spikey but equally inspiring writer this week: Grace Paley. I found this in the dedication of her book of essays “As I thought”:

“I want to thank the women who preceded me in this last-half-of-the-century women’s movement. They were early in understanding and action, so that it was easier for me and others to cross the slippery streets of indifference, exclusion and condescension.”

That is just how I feel too. I am grateful for all the work and struggle that made it possible for me to read The Golden Notebook and say “well, this part certainly doesn’t address issues in *my* life!” Things used to be very different; I’m grateful for the change. I hope my generation can make enough of a difference so that our daughters and granddaughters will be grateful too."

This is a reminder that it's time to evaluate the success of the online reading of The Golden Notebook. The idea and choice of book was Bob's, and there were many who thought it was a crazy choice for such treatment, but actually the size, reputation and difficulty of the book was what made the project so worthwhile I reckon. The site, built by Apt, is still there and being visited; I hope it will be available to be used by students and readers of the book for years to come, and will be enriched by many other readings of a book which I also found infuriating, compelling and thought provoking. The project has attracted a lot of positive attention - and questions about where it leads next. Your thoughts are welcomed.

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