Henry James Comes to Terms
‘As you grow old,’ she said, ‘the corners of your mouth droop. People imagine you are sad. In fact you might be perfectly happy. It can be disconcerting when people are too solicitous. I make an effort.’
She wore dresses with floral prints. Her hair was tied up in a bun, but there were always wisps of escaping grey hair. I watched her as she observed me. Doris’s eyes were cool and blue, but when you stood close to her you felt, emanating from her, a kind of refined heat.
Doris Lessing was a vegetarian and a good cook. She was close to her burly son, Peter, who lived with her and found his mother’s hangers-on amusing. She had a small, warm writing room in her loft. It was carpeted in cream and overlooked Golders Green cemetery. She was a speed reader. When I gave her a book she finished it in half an hour and gave it back. Lessing thought she was enlightened. She had a large cat with great wide eyes. She thought Britain was full of reasonably civilised, decent people. She admired Malcolm Muggeridge. Lessing thought plastic was a wonderful, precious material that we would miss.
She asked me: ‘Do you want to be a writer?’ ‘I am not sure.’ ‘Shall I tell you how to be a good writer?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Write.’ She said.