More on Notebooks

So, as I said, I’m rereading The Golden Notebook (will finish during the beloved toddler’s nap today). It’s still bugging me but also interesting me deeply: the post-it flags proliferate as I read along. It is not a dull book, nor is it a happy one. There’s no joy in the character’s lives but, more painfully, there doesn’t seem to be much joy in the writing of it.

What is deeply interesting, however, is the conceit of the notebooks themselves: black for Africa, red for politics (the narrator is a communist), blue for her diary, and yellow for fiction. I love the image of a writer pouring over a trestle table of notebooks and the fantasy of such organization, compartmentalization is one I share—and sometimes indulge. Now, over at this stubborn world, Jacqui Lofthouse is sharing her own notebook system.

Meanwhile, I read avidly on other blogs whenever someone links to a story about either a writer’s system of writing (I only use a fountain pen at 3 AM; I compose on the computer while listening to Kanye West, etc.) or a writer’s complete exasperation at the questions about the techne of writing. I feel sympathetic to both views. In Q & A sessions after readings, I, too, have been irritated by the weedy questioner, eager to confirm his or her own insanity by linking it to the writer's. Still, one of the great pleasures of writing is physical: having a nice desk or a lovely pen. And, as I find Anna Wulf’s notebooks annoying, I take notes on them on my computer but I do my free-writes in a spiral-bound graphpaper notebook from London. The thick notebook has colored margins, six of them, so I can place my thoughts according to which chapter of the book they pertain to. There’s something deeply satisfying about categorizing free-writes this way—even when they devolve into little meditations on my own inadequacy--they are filed in the “Chapter One: Woolf & the Greeks” section.

For more Lessing, you might check out this review of General Dann: the Lessing listserv is abuzz with it—calling it a horrible review, etc. I thought the book sounded kind of all right: interesting. The ice-covered continent of Yerropp is a little silly: Orwell meets, oh, I don’t know, those great White Mountain? sci-fi books of sixth grade.