The Golden Notebook

I have two memories of Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, a novel I read over twenty years ago.  One:  it went on forever.  Two:  The narrator, Anna Wulf, had four notebooks, each one a different color.  Obviously, she was a woman who believed in keeping things separate. 

In case you’re curious, one notebook was for politics, one was for a novel she was writing, one was for her life as a mother — and one might have been for sex.  I can’t remember now.  If there had been a notebook just for sex, it was probably the kind of sex that involved tiresome partners and frustrating interactions — or else I’d remember it better.

The point at which I stood up and cheered was when Anna Wulf threw away her four notebooks — signalling her decision to integrate all the parts of her life.  Hence, the title, which refers to the single notebook she ended up with.  It was the Golden Notebook, of course.  You can tell from the title of the novel and the color she chose for the final noteboook, that Lessing thinks compartmentalizing things is a bad idea.

Which brings me to the advice that you should write about only one thing in a blog.  That probably is good advice — people like to know that when they look you up they’ll find a recipe, or a picture of food, or a book review, or a joke.  I do enjoy that myself.  But I don’t always want that.  Sometimes, I’d rather hear a variety of things:  what’s being planted in the garden, cooked for dinner, waiting to be read.  Often, the people I’d most like to be sitting next to at dinner are the people who can talk about a wide variety of subjects, both things I’m interested in and things I don’t know much about. 

There’s no reason a blog can’t be like that.   It seems to me that the things I love, the things that give pleasure, make up the texture of one life, and they should all be in one place.  Except my weird obsession with packaging food.  That’s got its own home

 Let me know what you think. 


9 thoughts on “The Golden Notebook

  1. This is such a good idea, bloglily. Blogs ought to reflect the life lived, and its rarely the case that life occurs on the same note. I love the variety on your site; it’s always a surprise to visit and see what’s going on.

  2. Variety and single message — both seem to work, as long as the person doing the writing stays interested in what they’re doing. This week is a cooking week, by the way. I can’t wait to enter the world of those recipe boxes. Best, BL

  3. I get a lot of pleasure reading blogs that are specific to one idea, but I also love writing my own which is a hodge-podge. Thanks for your blog – it’s nourishing on many levels.

  4. Hello Charlotte — I’m so glad. Like you, I have a six year old. He’s my third, and I think he feels like everyone else has gotten to EVERYTHING before him and he will never be much good at the things that matter (sports, reading)…. Cheers, BL

  5. I have just started my blog, which I intended to be on one theme, the language development of my son, but now I’m finding myself wanting to write on all sorts of other topics like my favourite recipe for wholemeal pasta. I wondered if that would be Roger Irrelevant but reading your post made me think: “No, it’s OK, I can write about all sorts of things!” A boyfriend once finished with me because in the middle of a (boring?) conversation, I asked him if he liked potatoes. I still can’t see what was wrong with that. That is how my mind works, moving from one idea to the next.

  6. Does it add anything at all to say that I completely agree ? I can’t write about the same thing, my brains won’t let me. The exception is as you say weird obsessions, they got their own blogs, also with me. All good so far.

    I don’t have any children though, but I have a pirate …

  7. I’d love to hear your favorite recipe for wholemeal pasta, Helen — in your new blog, some other blog, or over here. That boyfriend sounds like he was fine to be rid of! (I do like potatoes, although I know they’re not very fashionable right now, from a nutritional point of view.)

    I know what you mean, Ingrid! I’m looking forward to hearing what field trips that pirate goes on.

    Best, BL

  8. Hey Bloglily. I agree with you. I write most often about writing, but at times my own personal stuff seeps in. I like to read the one note sites, though, because they are often really well done with a lot of attention to detail and look and theme.

    As a newer blogist, I tend to write much shorter entries than most of you. I would like to start to extend them, but is is slow going.

    I’ll keep checking in here and on a lot of your posters. too…

  9. Hello Bloglily.

    Thanks for your words on compartmentalizing vs. integrating journals. And thanks for bringing back to mind Lessing’s Golden Notebook.

    I’ve been blogging only for a couple of weeks. I was inspired to get going by the arrival of the new gardening year and the joy of seed-starting…but knew I wouldn’t be able to limit myself to gardening, so I subtitled it “Garden Talk…and more,” and “the more” was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Last week I started a companion blog for the recipes that were starting to take over the place; now I find poetry and writing about literature are creeping in everywhere. But I’ve tried the separate notebook thing before and it just doesn’t work for me; so I hesitate to go too far down that path.

    In short. I’m going to stop worrying about it. I need to write about what matters to me and, as you say, what I can stay interested in. So thanks!


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