in which me & Doris Lessing catch a play

Nine years, ten months + change ago, I was on a class trip to London. Ostensibly a trip to experience the glowing, happening centre of Imperial European culture - theatre in particular - it ended up being for all intents and purposes a party/socialising/sightseeing-trip. We had just started the IB a few months earlier, and didn't really know each other that well yet, so we ended up mostly getting drunk alot, going shopping and seeing sights and trying to get to know each other. Seeing the British Museum through a haze of near-hallucinatory hangover was a bizarre and unforgettable experience. The Rosetta Stone, for me = angst, weltschmertz, nausea.

One night between parties we finally went out to catch Ibsen's An Enemy of the People with Ian McKellan (whom you know probably as Gandalf or Magneto). The play was great, as far as I recall, but I was tired and not quite firing on all cylinders. During intermission, I was roaming around in the lobby outside the Laurence Olivier Hall or whatever it was called. As I was heading back from the bar with a soda, I passed a sweet-looking old lady with her hair rolled up in a bun. My English teacher Margaret pointed her out to me and in the sort-of-blasé, but very tense way one whispers "that's the queen" or "that's the prime minister", she whispered "that's Doris Lessing".

The funny thing: that afternoon, I had gone to a mother-huge chain bookstore in downtown London and bought two books as christmas presents for my parents. One was Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner for my father the noirist, the other was Walking in the Shade, volume II of Lessing's autobiography, which had just come out that summer. What sucked about all this: I had left the book in my room at the hotel. It would have been too cool to just happen to bump into Doris Lessing while catching a play in London on the very day I bought her book and getting her signature. What are the odds of that? I had never met her before, and suddenly I meet her on the same day I bought a book by her.

So anyway, the Nobel Prize in Literature 2007? That's Doris Lessing.

And its about time, too.

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Blogger Susanne said...


October 11, 2007 9:09 pm  
Blogger suttonhoo said...

whoa. beautiful memory. cool crossing paths like that.

I got the news as a NYT ticker update flashing across my phone while I was doing something else, and as I read it I felt a chill and a deep "YES".

October 12, 2007 3:41 am  

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