Adventures in Reading


Ben, In the World by Doris Lessing

First, allow me to say: “Damn you WordPress!” As it just proceeded to lose all of my text (though somehow retain the categories and tags I had filled in). After the book sale yesterday, I stopped in at the library to pick up Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. While I had to order this novel, I did stumble across Ben, in the World (2000) – the sequel to The Fifth Child – and gave in to see where Lessing’s curious story continued. I was greatly disappointed. Often my favorite part of reading fiction are the multitude of interpretations that are available. I love the discussion that results from this and the author’s embodiment of diverse ideas. Ben, In the World was very much a dead end.

Yesterday when I finished The Fifth Child my imagination was very much captured by the duplicity of Ben as either being a human anomaly of evolution or that Lessing was utilizing the fear and apprehension surrounding the Thalidomide scare in the UK during the 1950s and 60s (or something similar). Ben, In the World without a doubt confirms that he is an evolutionary “throwback” with no mention of his mother’s habitual use of tranquilizers during her pregnancy. Ben has been rejected by his family, taken in by an old lady who dies, rapes a prostitute with a “heart of gold” he befriends moments after the rape [1], he’s involved in drug trafficking with the prostitute’s pimp, taken to Brazil by an American to be in a movie, kidnapped for scientific experiments, escapes and commits suicide. Really, that is about it, and I will admit that I can only suspend my disbelief so much. I still have hope for Lessing’s other books, but what a contrast from my mindset of yesterday!

The one interesting point in the book, which is summarized quite well at the end is societies longing or even craving for normalcy. Teresa – a Brazilian beauty, ex-prostitute, current television hand – ends the book saying: “‘And I know that we are pleased that he is dead and that we don’t have to think about him'” (178). This applies very much to Ben as well as the “corrupted” culture the reader is given a tour of through Ben’s exploits.

On a different note, I have been doing a lot of tweaking around Adventures in Reading, which includes: tags, new links, recommendations, a visual book stack, and so forth. I am also considering a new picture or design to replace the black and white books at the beginning of the blog and any suggestions would be more than welcome.

[1] I had never realized before how much some authors gloss over rape and/or partake in the “no means yes” mindset. Literature can indeed by rather misogynistic.

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2 Comments

[…] last year, I quickly delved into two of her shorter pieces: The Fifth Child and the sequel Ben, In the World. Always with the intention on reading more by Lessing, the year slipped away and here we are with a […]

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Loved Fifth Child, so was anxious to find out what happened to Ben. Didn’t enjoy the sequel as much as the first, was devastated when he killed himself, still don’t understand why he did. Has been suggested that he realised on observing the cave/rock drawings that he must belong to another age, but how could this be with his simple take on things? Can anyone help?

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