m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Settling the Score

Do you remember when you were in New Writers Class and your teacher told you what not to do once you were famous? That, specifically, you should never shop your latest novel around under a pseudonym to see if anyone will buy it on merit alone. Setting aside the risks to your ego, the number of people you’ll annoy this way is astronomical.

Well, when Doris Lessing did it, she intended to annoy:

For a reason Mrs. Lessing terms ‘‘frankly if faintly malicious,’’ she wanted to settle a score with reviewers who she says hated her five Canopus novels - her visionary ‘‘space fiction’’ series - and preferred that she once again write ‘‘The Golden Notebook,’’ a novel about a liberated woman’s struggle to define her identity. Those reviewers were sent ‘‘The Diary of a Good Neighbour,’’ she writes, ‘‘but not one recognized me.’’

This is where the average famous writer would retreat with a bruised ego, but she took it well:

Mrs. Lessing said that she intended from the beginning to own up to the experiment, but expected to be found out soon after publication of the first Jane Somers book.

'’It never crossed my mind that people wouldn’t guess my identity when my first book came out,’’ she said. ‘‘I was amazed. So when they didn’t, I decided to write another.’’