tispity: Vanquisher character from Torchlight (Default)
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Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

'Yes, I do believe in something. I believe in being warm-hearted. I believe especially in being warm-hearted in love, in fucking with a warm heart. I believe if men could fuck with warm hearts and women take it warm-heartedly, everything would come all right.'

Since I'm currently meant to be writing an essay on censorship for my library course, it seemed like a good opportunity to visit one of the most famous banned books of all time. First published in 1928 - in Italy rather than Lawrence's native UK where it could not be published openly until 1960 - Lady Chatterley's Lover has become notorious for its then unprintably coarse language and its graphic descriptions of an adulterous sexual relationship between an aristocratic woman and her husband's gamekeeper. I can imagine that this cross-class relationship was originally every bit as shocking - if not more so - than the sexual language; certainly that's how characters in the novel respond, Connie Chatterley's father and sister are far more concerned at the scandal of her class-betrayal than of her adultery. But this isn't a book designed purely to shock, it's thoughtful and thought-provoking on so many levels, as well as being a vivid snapshot of British society still reeling from the First World War and in painful transition from its smoggy industrial heyday to a more service based economy. The novel essentially deals with the contrast between intellect and physicality, and the realisation of its protagonist, Connie, that she cannot live through her mind alone; she must also be alive in her body. This choice is represented by the two men in her life: her husband, the colliery owner Sir Clifford, who has been paralysed from the waist down and now lives a purely intellectual life as a writer, and the game-keeper, the sensual Oliver Mellors who lives in quiet isolation after an unsuccessful marriage and string of disappointing affairs.

I found this book hard going at first, as the book opens to a lot of quite academic generalisations about male and female nature but Connie becomes a more engaging character as she moves from cold intellect towards passion, and I appreciated the honesty and realism of Lawrence's prose. Connie and Mellors find tremendous fulfilment in each other but even their love-making is far from perfect and the novel describes the mental distances between them just as vividly as it does their unions. Lawrence's working title for the book was at one point, "Tenderness" and this does seem to be the philosophy that Lawrence promotes above all. It's an important message, and the novel, overall, resembles the "Lover" of its title: with a famously coarse exterior masking much that is tender and noble.

Date: 2010-06-23 10:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vientral.livejournal.com
I have a soft spot for this book, I really like the way you see it.

Date: 2010-06-24 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tispity.livejournal.com
Thanks, I'm glad my little review meant something to you. I hadn't read any Lawrence for years - not since I was an undergrad probably - but he does have a brilliantly convincing way of evoking emotion. I'm glad I read this.

Date: 2010-06-24 08:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tempore.livejournal.com
It's my favorite book. I'm so glad you see it for what it is, and the tenderness inside it, because so often, I've sat through academic discussions about all the misogyny and the ripping apart of it, and of Connie Chatterley. While those discussions are important, I feel like they miss some truly valid and amazing points.

That book changed my outlook fundamentally, and was what somewhat gave me the permission not to continue in academia.

Date: 2010-06-25 10:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tispity.livejournal.com
You know, if I'd read it earlier - say, a few years ago when I was still in the process of trying to walk away from academia - I think I'd have had exactly the same sort of experience with this book. It is a powerful statement of the importance of being true to yourself and the fact that intellectual success isn't necessarily the same as living a satisfied life.

Date: 2010-06-25 01:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tempore.livejournal.com
It's funny, because if I'd stayed in academia, I probably would have ended up writing about Tommy Dukes and his intellectual problem with relationships.

And it's so true. I find it interesting how many authors (and authors' descendents) dislike the academia that pursue them. Stephen King wrote about the dark side of academia in Lisey's Story.

Date: 2010-06-25 01:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tispity.livejournal.com
That's very true isn't it, and yet so many novels feature academics. Mind you, I always think making your protagonist an academic is a bit of an easy option when it comes to giving them vocation that will give flexibility (set it in the uni holidays, OK so they have a book to write but that doesn't restrict them in the way a 9-5.30 shop job would) and money (so that they have time and space to go to and do whatever the story is about).

I have an idea for a novel myself that I've been mulling over for some time and it would be the easiest thing to make the main character an academic in order to explain why she is where I need her to be, but I desperately don't want to do that.

I'm not usually a big King fan but may have to check out' Lisey's Story' now.
Edited Date: 2010-06-25 01:55 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-06-25 02:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tempore.livejournal.com
Exactly. Just like so many novels feature writers. Writers writing about writers is its own mythology, and I'm sure that's half of where the romanticism of writing comes in.

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