Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lady Chatterley's Lover--Reading Update

Lady Chatterley's Lover
by D.H. Lawrence

In our hotel in Spain there was pornography on the television. For free!
Not Cinemax style, this was, in fact, the real deal y'all. And not even ugly actors. Pretty people.
If you had told me there was porn before I got there, I would have probably switched on the TV right away for proof... instead of finding it accidentally. And wouldn't you? For the novelty at least!

I was not surprised to learn that Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned in America when it was published in Europe in 1928. I was surprised, however, to learn that lots of people bought different pirated versions of the novel and at really high prices.
It was banned because of the treatment of sex. Lawrence treats it as if it is in the room and anyone can talk about it and, well, how's that supposed to work?

To get people interested in reading a book, you can do no better than to say, "Whatever you do, NEVER READ THAT FILTHY BOOK!!!"

But this book isn't pornographic it turns out. It's sexual content is sometimes beautiful in it's directness. Upon reading the first real sex scene I thought, "Oh, that's how people do it. They just walk into a room and start!" Without any embarrassing all-night-talking before they finally drunkenly kiss. In Lawrence, the man walks over to the woman and tells her to lay down on the floor and both of them know what is happening and neither of them snickers or makes a joke. I hadn't thought of that.

But the best part isn't learning how to be human, it's the heavy poetry. Listen to this... This is the first paragraph of the novel:

"Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen."

I bet Lawrence really started living when the controversy of this book caught fire. I bet he just LOVED it. What self-respecting author wouldn't just delight in normal people being forced to take a side about an issue they're too embarrassed to name out loud? Normal people just behaving insanely over your novel. Hell yeah.

Because of the pirating, he decided to publish a cheap version on his own, to which he added an essay entitled "A Propos of "Lady Chatterley's Lover." In the essay he says:
"So, between the sick and the old puritan who is likely to fall into sexual indecency in advanced age, and the smart jazzy person of the young world, who says: 'We can do anything. If we can think a thing we can do it' --and then the low uncultured person with a dirty mind, who looks for dirt--this book has hardly a space to turn in. But to them all I say the same: Keep your perversions if you like them--your perversion of puritanism, your perversion of smart licentiousness, your perversion of a dirty mind. But I stick to my book and my position: Life is only bearable when the mind and the body are in harmony, and there is a natural balance between the two, and each has a natural respect for the other."

So it was curiosity that brought me to this novel but... Now I'm embarrassed that sexuality is still curious to anyone. Me.

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