Doris Lessing, Clancy Sigal, and sexy Oedipal “nuttiness”

P11_Boddy_1133425hKasia Boddy at the Times Literary Supplement:

It’s not unusual for lovers to contest events and for the one who feels misrepresented to write back with gusto. Ted Hughes, for examples, used Birthday Letters to inform the world that there was something rather dubious about Sylvia Plath’s “long, perfect American legs”, never mind her “roundy” face. But perhaps because his break-up with Lessing was more mutual, and perhaps because he had originally come to Europe with the intention of having an affair with a European intellectual (in the footsteps of Nelson Algren seeking his own Simone de Beauvoir), Sigal is more genial and self-consciously satirical about the affair. He takes great pleasure in elaborating on the “wonderful, inventive, imaginative” culinary, rather than intellectual, skills of his once well-beloved (a juicy meat loaf makes several appearances) and his own reputation as “James Dean out of Brendan Behan” and being “terrific in bed”.

And yet the decades-old experience of being “stuck hot and steaming” into Lessing’s prose like “a still-struggling lobster” was not forgotten. Unlike Lessing, Rubenstein argues, Sigal seems never to have got the relationship “out of his system – or to exhaust its literary possibilities”. In his hands Saul Green becomes Jake Blue, then Paul Blue, then Gus Black and so on. For all its comic playfulness (“Stay out of my drawers – figuratively, I mean”, his alter ego scolds hers), the sense of betrayal is never far from the surface of Sigal’s prose.

more here.