Time Bites: Views and Reviews

Doris May Lessing, Author . HarperCollins $27.95 (376p) ISBN 978-0-06-083140-0

Arguably the grande dame of English letters—the list of her published works comes to 60-plus—Lessing has always been outspoken about literature, politics and social issues. The 65 essays and book reviews collected here range over those topics and others, all declaimed in Lessing's brisk, wry voice and articulated with pragmatic intelligence. Her literary reviews always amplify the book at hand; the pieces on Virginia Woolf, Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austen resonate with fresh insight. Her enthusiastic reconsiderations of authors who are little read today, including Olive Schreiner, George Meredith, A.E. Coppard and Walter de la Mare, may pique readers' curiosity. Another obscure book, about an American prostitute, comes to light in the fascinating "The Maimie Papers." Six essays discuss the writer Idries Shah and his books about the mysteries and consolations of Sufism, which, Lessing claims, were "like a depth charge" and fulfilled all her philosophical and spiritual needs. Not every reader will be convinced. There's a tirade against Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia was Lessing's homeland) and a coruscating indictment of American complacency before 9/11. The main theme, whether addressed overtly or underlying her literary criticism, is the indispensable place of books in the life of an educated person and an enlightened culture. Hers is a clarion call. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/10/2005
Release date: 12/01/2005
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