PRISONS WE CHOOSE TO LIVE INSIDE by Doris Lessing

PRISONS WE CHOOSE TO LIVE INSIDE

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Many of Lessing's (Shikasta; The Good Terrorist, etc.) novels have dealt with the particular confusions and complexities of modern life. In these brief essays, originally lectures, she confronts the greatest confusion of all--that with all the wondrous leaps of scientific and psychological knowledge since the Enlightenment, we still manage to blunder into the same paths of error as always. We all just take ourselves too seriously, Lessing argues, from the early rash of idealistic passion--"group lunacy"--to later years when we frown on the upcoming generations of raving lunatics. Lessing believes that we must infuse public life with some laughter. "Laughter is a very powerful thing, and only the most civilized, the liberated, the free person can laugh at herself, himself." There is a law of society at work in this world, she says: "It is this: the people at the top of a government, a department, a ministry, or any institution of government or administration never know what goes on at the lower levels." Lessing gives examples of the individual giving in to the group (as well-known as the famed Milgram "torture" experiment or as obscure as her own experiment in submitting manuscripts to her longtime publisher under a pen name, only to have them turned down). But at times her argument is muddled, as when she argues that it is bull-headed of the majority to so passionately resist an idea: after all, "today's treason is tomorrow's orthodoxy." In the end, she has nothing more to hang her hat on than the "individual"--who has already reigned as a hero of sorts in the Western world for two centuries. Lesser Lessing.
Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1987
ISBN: 0060390778
Page count: 98pp
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1987




MORE BY DORIS LESSING

NonfictionALFRED AND EMILY by Doris Lessing
by Doris Lessing
FictionTHE CLEFT by Doris Lessing
by Doris Lessing