My second Lawrence book and he is turning into one of my favourite writers. This didn’t disappoint. In fact, in places, this unexpurgated 1928 edition downright startled me.
Considering it was written in 1928, waaaaaay before the so-called sexual revolution of the 60s, this was a bold move. But, before we get sidetracked, the book isn’t about sex. The fact that it took about 30 years before bans on its publication were lifted indicates that this fact was lost on the legal institutes of the day.
Sure there’s language that you wouldn’t use with your mother-in-law. But Connie Chatterley and her lover use the word “fuck” (there, I’ve said it now) as you and I would use the word “sex.” And, as a linguist and teacher of English who often does lessons on taboo language, I’m fascinated by the pyschological effect a single syllable can have on someone. I mean, I even got sweaty palms just typing the f-word there. If this was a podcast, I’m not sure I could handle it!
But why? Why on earth can a single syllable make us shudder? What is associated with the word “cunt” that stops you dead in your tracks as you read this where “vagina” wouldn’t even make you blink (well, it might… 😉 )? Lawrence, of course, took umbridge that criticism of his novel got derailed into this lexical siding. It must have been terribly frustrating for him.
I happened to have a forty page commentary by Lawrence on his novel tacked on the end of my decrepit paperback. This was a huge bonus and helped me see it from his point of view. “I want men and women to be able to think sex, fully, completely, honesty and cleanly.” He explains how he believes sex will be as it was intended when our sexual lives and our sexual thoughts are in harmony because mind and body should be in harmony.
Now, the only problem I have with this approach is that there’s not a lot of discussion about what our thought life should be. Surely, if followed to its logical conclusion, all sorts of sexual acts could be justified. Where Lawrence redeems himself slightly is that he praises marriage as the rightful backdrop for sex. Unfortunately, this is compromised by the novel itself where both marriages are victims to the sexual desires of the protagonists.
How Lawrence intends to reconcile this, I have no idea. And this, for me, is why I can understand why it should be considered a dangerous book.
Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.
John Thomas says good night to Lady Jane, a little droopingly, but with a hopeful heart.
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good> excellent > superb