Forensic Eight Year Old Uncovers a Magical Substance

Carsen was playing on the black chair in the livingroom enjoying the soft texture of it.  He was rubbing his hands up and down the back of it when he thought he’d like to swipe his hands across the tops of the arms.  “Oh look!”, he said, “Dust poufs going up to heaven.”

“Oh Great!”, I said silently – so much for my housekeeping.  The forensic eight year old uncovers my bad habits and a cloud of dust.

Dust:  A magical substance from another universe that could awaken people in the film, “The Golden Compass”; alchemy.

Dust:  Blown into rooms and onto furniture by the movement of air or wind; the ordinary.

Dust:  Dirt roads; earth.

Dust:  Covering the city in New York after 9-11; explosions.

Dust:  The bones of the dead ‘Clefts’:  females from Doris Lessing’s Book, ‘The Cleft’.

Notes I made after reading ‘The Cleft’.

  • This story was a Genesis (better than the version in Bibles).  It’s the way the first book in Bibles should have been written:  and I’m not kidding!
  • Men and Women – we cannot live without each other, procreation aside.
  • Women don’t seek change, but men do.
  • Men cannot be bothered with details.
  • Men are living fearlessly.
  • Women wait for men.  (I found a spelling error; this sentence originally read:  Women wail for men.)
  • Women hold fear.
  • Memory; oral and auditory, versus Marks; written and recorded.
  • Impermanence is infinite.
  • Perishing is surface.
  • Change is not in our control; it is in the hands of nature and the forces of evolution.

I never dreamed I could love a story of this genre so much. The internet offers kudos and criticisms that made it even more interesting for me to follow having read the book first. Harold Bloom once accused Lessing of ‘a crusade against male human beings’ but she has always resisted the designation of feminist novelist on the grounds that she is as coolly unsentimental about women as she is about men and unafraid of political incorrectness. There will, no doubt, be some (enthusiasts of the great monotheistic religions, for instance, in which male primacy seems to be a pretty key ingredient) who will take a Bloom-like view of The Cleft as a kind of feminist tract. But, in reality, this is a novel that appears to have no political allegiance, beyond a statement that women came first. She suggests that the capacity for cruelty and self-defence has as much potential to take hold of women as it does men. Last Saturday Ursula Le Guin lambastedDoris Lessing’s new novel The Cleft in the Guardian Review as ‘a parable of slobbering walrus-women’, and went on to conclude:

‘I can’t accept it. It is incomplete; it is deeply arbitrary; and I see in it little but a reworking of a tiresome science-fiction cliché – a hive of mindless females is awakened and elevated (to the low degree of which the female is capable) by the wondrous shock of masculinity. A tale of Sleeping Beauties – only they aren’t even beautiful. They’re a lot of slobbering walruses, till the Prince comes along.’

Which side are you on?

Copyright © 2010 Nicole Rigets