December 10, 2007


Steven Augustine

A lovely variation on the "children are starving in India" riff, which every clever ten year old it was ever used on considered a non sequitur, knowing that finishing her/his supper wasn't going to feed those kids in India.

Let's abhor an apparent "Western" apathy towards "books" *without* demonizing the Internet (which is actually rather an improvement over television, in that quite a lot of web content requires reading, and often involves writing, too; astonishing hunks of it are scholarly and wonderful and undiluted by the bottom line), or using poor African kids in chastening effigy.

I like Lessing's bluntness, but her Noble win isn't going to see me suddenly cherishing everything she has to say. Too often, I think, essayists/speakers of a well-meaning sort use "The Third World" for the borrowed gravitas it adds to the argument, but isn't the material gulf between "us" and "them" by many magnitudes greater than anything to do with books? What about the immemorial piracy of Africa's vast mineral wealth, for starters? I'm all for re-wiring the geopolitical planet more equitably, but in what way does Lessing even touch on that?

And, surely, a fragment of that prize money of hers can go directly to buying the young mother (the one reading Anna Karenina), and quite a few others, modest libraries of their own?


Mixed feelings about Doris Lessing's Nobel speech. What is Africa doing to help its own country, besides continuing a decades long war and starving the people? Think of how they could improve their lives, intellectually and physically if they actually put their citizens first. I think her speech should be aim at Africa, and other Third World countries who blame the U.S. for their serious shortcomings.


"What is Africa doing to help its own country..."

The ignorance of your entire statement is captured in this one line. I imagine though, you're not the only idiot reading this who believes Africa is a country.


Country in terms of 'Third World Country'. Shame I had to spell it out for you. I strongly suggest read comprehension classes.


God, that old cheeseball "people are starving for books" stuff. Please! No one has ever saved a life with a book. Let's put it into perspective. It's just more self-righteousness from the establishment, who need a mysticism (which is what it is) to justify their own pampered existence and an annual round of lavish parties.

If you credit books with helping save civilization, then you have to blame them for things like the Holocaust--and going down this slippery slope, it's not long before you land on your butt in a big smelly puddle of censorship.

And Grace, go easy on Linda. She does have a point. You see, we're all still implicated in this western paternalistic culture of liberalism, conservatives and postcolonialists and everything in between alike. No one ever speaks of accountability anymore, unless it's to punish ourselves or someone else. The real work is slower and less glamorous: solving the problems day to day. No easy answers, actually. So don'ttry to absolve yourself by calling other people ignorant. We're just getting started with ignorant.


We here at TEV pride ourselves on the civility of our readers and commentators, so please do let's try to avoid name calling and back-and-forth sniping, ok? Otherwise, purely name-calling comments will be removed.


I apologize. Please delete my last post.


Done. And thank you.



I want--for the sake of goodness--not to believe you're really as idiotic as you appear, but you leave me little choice. Your follow-up is a miserable attempt at backtracking, and makes you appear even more foolish than your original statement.

Africa, my dear Linda, is not a country, nor is it a "third world country" as you now state (I bet you felt so righteous writing that follow-up comment didn't you? Thinking you were so brilliant!) I think even the basically educated knows that Africa is a continent of over 52 countries (Shocking isn't it Linda, that we can't get away with the kind of sweeping generalizations you made in your first comment!). The kind of simple-minded statement you made in your first comment is just one indication of why developed and developing nations remain at odds.

Sad to believe that someone who reads an intelligently-written literary blog could be this stupid! I should never assume too much. Truly, my mistake.


Read Doris Lessings's speech. It reminds me of something my grandfather always told me about pointing out other people's faults. He said, "Don't tell me what they're not doing, what are you doing to help?" Merely talking about it means nothing. Because this isn't a new problem. People have been talking about it way before she decided to address it. And FYI: Africa is a 'Third World Country' whether people choose to accept this or not. Civil war,thousands of people dying from AIDS and thousands of orphan children, Starvation. Horrendous things no human being should suffer.
P.S. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you disagree, tell them why, don't reduce this excellent blog to silly high school bantering. Stop the ridiculous name calling.


Well said. We're all adults.


Hi Mark,
I read your comments after I made my second post. You're welcome to delete my comments. I'm sorry, not for the viewpoints I expressed, but any offense I've caused.

Steven Augustine

"And FYI: Africa is a 'Third World Country' whether people choose to accept this or not."

Continent. Not a country. Very big difference (very big continent), and many *many* different peoples and languages therein (or on). It's a little mind-boggling that Grace had to point it out; even more mind-boggling that you didn't understand her the first and second times that she did. Even High School students know this... right?


I know this. But in terms of context no one writes 'Africa is a Third World Continent, do they? No. Its 'Third World Country'. Thank you.

Steven Augustine

...uh.... okay... you could try something like "Zimbabwe is a Third World Country"...or "Uganda"..."Senegal"... etc.

Hey: for ten bonus points: how many states in Central America? Let's see, there's Missouri... Minnesota... Ohio... Nebraska... Iowa...


Very funny.Let's just agree to disagree.

Steven Augustine

I take it all back. Lessing is absolutely right about the Internet.


I agree. There are more important things I should've been doing, but definitely not as much fun. The internet is a blessing and a curse. Maybe blessing is a bit strong.


I think you're operating on different planes here. One might take "Africa is a Third World Country" to mean that it is nearly without exception a contiguous terrain of poverty. But this is the benefit of the doubt.


Folks, the woman just said Africa needs books. That's the essence of her message. She's a writer (a bookmaker) who knows the advantages of reading, what would you rather she said? African needs cars? Please let her be. Someone mentions her prize money: how in Heaven's name do you know what she's gonna or not gonna do with the money?

Africa does need books, doesn't it?

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