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The Temptation of Jack Orkney
& Other Stories

Year First Published: 1972
First Published by:Alfred A. Knopf
Category:Short Stories
This Edition:American first edition

From the book jacket:

"In this, her first collection of stories in seven years, Doris Lessing looks into those irrevocable moments of decision when men and women are, through their own actions, either liberated from or imprisoned by the sanctions of society. An old woman, poorer than poor, keeping barely alive in a condemned house, is offered a shelter of an old peoples home if she will part with her faithful cat. A little diamond cutter risks his livelihood to disconcert a modern merchant princes daughter by making her a gift of a rare pearl. An African adventurer does native, to the uncomprehending horror of his fellow whites. An elderly gentleman guiltily plucks the deadheads off the geraniums in Regents Park. Visitors from outer space, reporting on a threatened city, conclude reluctantly that society itself is anesthetized against warnings of disaster, and that only the derelicts, the criminals, the mad - the outcasts who are unable (unwilling) to conform - will have the flexibility to survive the cataclysm.

Yet from time to time, even among those whose lives are worldly and successful, the impulse to self-knowledge, to recognition of reality, breaks through. At a crucial instant in his middle years, Jack Orkney, a complex and seasoned radical, becomes suddenly aware that he is in a state of acute attention, as if his whole being - memory, body, present and past chemistries - had been assaulted by a warning, a terror associated with the knowledge of passing time. And an aging, once beautiful actress acknowledges in the silence that now surrounds her that this is what I was born for, this is what I am, to fight embodied sleep, putting around it a continuing girdle of light, of intelligence, so that it cannot spread its slow stain of ugliness...

These stories demonstrate anew the extraordinary and uncompromising vision that has won for Doris Lessing recognition as a major writer of our time - the quality that Margaret Drabble has so precisely described: "She is prophetic, but not in a vague, exhortatory, passionate mode. Her judgments are practical, based on sound observation, and her grasp of what is actually happening in the works is ministerial. She is one of the very few novelists who have refused to believe that the world is too complicated to understand."

Also see:

Included in this Edition:

    The Story of a Non-Marrying Man
    An Old Woman and Her Cat
    Side Benefits of an Honourable Profession
    Report on the Threatened City
    Mrs. Fortescue
    An Unposted Love Letter
    Lions, Leaves, Roses...
    Not A Very Nice Story
    Spies I Have Known
    Out of the Fountain
    The Other Garden
    The Temptation of Jack Orkney