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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-16-2005, 07:02 PM Thread Starter
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D. H. Lawrence

A new life of D. H. Lawrence.
Issue of 2005-12-19
Posted 2005-12-12

If, as Oscar Wilde said, when critics disagre the artist is in accord with himself, then D. H Lawrence must count as one of the mos harmonious writers of all time. People talkin about Lawrence sound like his ow quarrelsome couples: they hate him, they say or they love him, or both. And the tides of hi reception have likewise shifted betwee adulation and disdain. In the decades after th Second World War, Lawrence was regarded a a culture hero: an intellectual up from th working class, a prophet against mechanize existence, a champion of instinctual life. And having found a way in “The Rainbow� and “Women in Love� to dramatize the lives of hi characters at a level where aggression an desire face off in a kind of primitiv incandescence, he was duly credited as technical innovator. More notoriously, he ha also, in “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,� opened u the English-language novel to a frank, four-letter-word treatment of sex. A critic a temperamentally unsympathetic to Lawrence a Irving Howe could write, with a revealin sense of priority, of “the revolutionar achievements of Lawrence, Joyce and, to smaller extent, Woolf.� The list doesn’t usuall come out that way today
Lawrence never quite belonged among the modernists anyway. Impatient with their aestheticism, he declared that his concern was with “man alive.� And there is none of Eliot’s “extinction of personality� about his work; Lawrence’s very personal voice, jocularly abusive like a male friend’s, or high-spirited and judgmental like a teen-age girl’s, bounding always between the disjunct registers of the chatty and the rhapsodic, can be heard in his short stories and essays as plainly as in his letters. But his demotion from the modernist canon has been prompted by moral disapproval as well. Martin Amis has provided a succinct bill of indictment:
When I reflect that D. H. Lawrence, perhaps the most foul-tempered writer of all time (beater of women and animals, racist, anti-Semite, etc., etc.), was also, perhaps, the most extravagantly slapdash exponent of language, I feel the lure of some immense generalisation about probity and prose.

Amis goes on to claim that an author’s life is never more than “just an interesting extra.� But this is what neither Lawrence’s acolytes nor his detractors have ever been able to accept. Invariably, the vitalist is scrutinized in the light of his own vita.

John Worthen, who wrote the first volume of a vast, three-volume Lawrence biography that Cambridge University Press published in the nineteen-nineties, presents his new book, “D. H. Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider� (Counterpoint; $29.95), as a project of rehabilitation, “the first one-volume life of Lawrence to be written since his reputation came under such assault,� and he deals briskly with most of the charges that Amis and others have lodged. Lawrence did sometimes hit his wife, Frieda—though she, much the bigger person, sometimes struck first, with plate in hand. (She claimed that she “preferred it that way. Battles must be. If he had sulked or borne me a grudge, how tedious!�) As for beaten “animals,� these consist of a little black dog named Bibbles, whom Lawrence set to kicking one day because the creature seemed to him too promiscuous, too “Walt-Whitmanesque� in its affections. This is pitiably absurd, and unforgivable, but also unique in Lawrence’s life. His depictions of animals and, indeed, of women are among the most intimately sympathetic in English.

Worthen denies that Lawrence was notably anti-Semitic, and certainly his few unpleasant references to Jews are as nothing compared with the systematic noxiousness of Pound and Eliot. But he clearly thought in racial terms, and took any people, much as he did any person, as an occasion for wild generalization. When a London publisher turned down “Sons and Lovers� on the ground that its “want of reticence� would render it unacceptable to the public, Lawrence responded with a wholesale denunciation of the English people:
Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up England today. . . . God, how I hate them! God curse them, funkers. God blast them, wishwash. Exterminate them, slime.

In a postscript to the same thunderous letter to his friend and editor Edward Garnett, Lawrence mildly acknowledges that the publisher is “quite right, as a business man.�

Probably the least interesting question we can ask about Lawrence is whether on occasion he violated certain worthy contemporary taboos; he did. More interesting is that for a generation or two it was common for the sense of accusation to run the other way: to feel that Lawrence, by example of his passion and courage, stood in judgment over us. “He shames one, Lawrence,� Henry Miller wrote, while Diana Trilling argued that those who disdained Lawrence were exhibiting what psychoanalysts call a reaction formation: “Lawrence hits so directly at our weaknesses that we rush to the attack upon his weaknesses.� Certainly few readers will come away from this latest life of Lawrence feeling that they have been more industrious, honest, and energetic than its subject.

(more to be had from the New Yorker)
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-17-2005, 01:07 AM
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RE: D. H. Lawrence

Jeez mate, - you really should re-discover the joy of reading novels.
May I recommend 'THE INNOCENT' by Harlan Coben.
Light relief from heady brain sapping work, and a damn sight easier read than a Kunkel take on DH faggot Lawrence.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-17-2005, 03:18 AM
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RE: D. H. Lawrence

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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-17-2005, 05:21 AM
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RE: D. H. Lawrence

shrimpton - 12/17/2005 4:07 AM

Jeez mate, - you really should re-discover the joy of reading novels.
May I recommend 'THE INNOCENT' by Harlan Coben.
Light relief from heady brain sapping work, and a damn sight easier read than a Kunkel take on DH faggot Lawrence.
great, a homophobe endorsement ![:)]
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-17-2005, 10:24 AM
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RE: D. H. Lawrence

shrimpton - 12/17/2005 3:07 AM

Jeez mate, - you really should re-discover the joy of reading novels.
May I recommend 'THE INNOCENT' by Harlan Coben.
Light relief from heady brain sapping work, and a damn sight easier read than a Kunkel take on DH faggot Lawrence.
Perfect. What a great example of what light reading gets you. Perfect.
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