XWe have detected your location as outside the U.S/Canada, if you think this is wrong, you can choose your location.

Palgrave Macmillan

Literary Half-Lives

Doris Lessing, Clancy Sigal, and Roman à Clef

ISBN 9781137413659
Publication Date May 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

It is a commonplace that writers draw on their personal experiences in myriad ways. However, it is decidedly uncommon for writers to reciprocally transform versions of their relationship with each other into fiction. While Doris Lessing was composing The Golden Notebook during the late 1950s, she was intimately involved with Clancy Sigal, then an aspiring American writer, in a relationship that decisively influenced the literary methods of both writers. Elements of the now-classic The Golden Notebook (1962) and Lessing's Play with a Tiger (1962) have direct sources in her relationship with Sigal. In turn, Clancy Sigal fictionalized Lessing, himself, and others in Zone of the Interior (1976) and The Secret Defector (1992) as well as in a number of unpublished pieces examined for the first time by Rubenstein. Focusing closely on multiple literary transformations of autobiographical materials, as reflected in the oeuvres of these two writers, Rubenstein also offers compelling insights into the ethical implications of disguised autobiography and roman à clef.

Roberta Rubenstein is Professor of Literature at American University, USA. She is the author of the pioneering study The Novelistic Vision of Doris Lessing: Breaking the Forms of Consciousness (1979). Her other books include Boundaries of the Self: Gender, Culture, Fiction (1987); Home Matters: Longing and Belonging, Nostalgia and Mourning in Women's Fiction (2001); and Virginia Woolf and the Russian Point of View (2009). She has published more than thirty scholarly articles and book chapters on twentieth-century women writers, including Woolf, Lessing, Morrison, Atwood, Drabble, and others.


1. Hall of Mirrors

2. Truth Values and Mining Claims

3. Plays and Power Plays

4. Will the Real Saul Green Please Stand Up?

5. A Rose by any other Name

6. Life in the Interior Zone

7. Poetic License and Poetic Justice

8. Variations on a Theme

9. Of Parent and Child

Conclusion: His, Hers, Theirs


"Literary Half-Lives is a scrupulously researched and riveting account of two major literary talents whose mutual influence led to their 'literary half-lives' in one another's works." - Washington Independent Review of Books "Roberta Rubenstein intends her book to be more than a kiss-and-tell; she wants the story of these stories to open up larger questions about obsession and creativity, about the ethics of writing a roman à clef, and the impossibility of locating a single '"true" version of any experience.'" - Times Literary Supplement "A pleasure to read. A rich accounting of the ways in which the ingredients of life - especially and complexly recounted in journals - are then transformed into fiction or drama. Readers of The Golden Notebook who remember Anna Wulf's reading of her American lover's journal will be intrigued by Rubenstein's review of Clancy Sigal's long-lived obsession - in his work and in his journals - with this particular incident." - Florence Howe, Professor Emerita of English, CUNY Graduate Center, USA and author of A Life in Motion (CUNY at Feminist Press)
"Roberta Rubenstein deftly explores the double helix of intertwined literary lives, teasing open the delicate braid of love, influence and competition. Her insight let's the reader peer through the kaleidoscope of culture, in a particular time and place and record the impact of social history as lived and written about by Lessing and Sigal, and as the kaleidoscope slowly turns the reader sees things in a new and luminous light." - A.M. Homes, Princeton University, USA
"Literary Half-Lives makes a significant contribution to Lessing scholarship and will be of intense interest to the global community of Lessing scholars. Rubenstein provides a helpful theoretical and ethical framework for approaching the issues raised by Lessing and Sigal's 'mining' of their personal relationship for material for their writing and reaches a persuasive conclusion about them while still leaving the final ethical judgment up to the reader. Given its interesting autobiographical content and accessible, jargon-free writing style, this book will appeal not only to scholars but also to the general readers of Lessing." - Alice Ridout, Visiting Assistant Professor of English, Algoma University, Canada "Literary Half-Lives charts the fascinating progression of personal and textual relations between the once-lovers Doris Lessing and Clancy Sigal. Rubinstein brings together two bodies of work to examine and theorize the literary practice of transforming the 'raw materials' of one's personal experiences and relationships into imaginative literary writing...The final chapters suggest the need for a much broader study of literary cross-borrowings between authors intimately involved with one another... Rubenstein has established a field of enquiry that will excite further study." - Contemporary Women's Writing
Add a review

Related titles