Sunday, 5 May 2013

On 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', Spring, and the Need for Good Words - PART 1

So I'm taking a little break from my usual Kindle Romance Cover reviewing. It's been a busy week, but a good one, with unseasonably beautiful weather for England. The birds are in and out of the garden looking for bugs, the squirrels are desecrating our garden furniture with their courting exploits, and everywhere I look there's something blooming. Spring figures into my week in more than just the change of seasons, though, but I'll get to that later.

Several weeks ago I finally despaired. I sent yet another example of 'romantic fiction' back to the Kindle dustbin after reading barely a few pages. I hit the wall whenever I'm presented with that 'laundry list' of physical attributes that are given as a mean substitute for actual characterisation. Flowing auburn hair. Glowing green eyes. Blah blah.

So I gave up. I put my genre in the drawer. It was failing me.

Perhaps it was my mistake to think that in order to write love stories, I should be reading romantic fiction (and this isn't the first time I've struggled with it). Don't get me wrong, there are AMAZING romance writers out there, many of whom inspired me to head in this direction in the first place. But it's a high-consumption, swift-turnover genre, which means there is much (MUCH) chaff with the wheat. And the reality was, I was starving. Starving for real, quality writing. Hungry for good words, well written, competently expressed, intelligently inspired.

So, out with the processed food. In with the fine cuisine. On a whim, I started reading D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. Why not? I hadn't done much in the way of literature studies in university, and I certainly wouldn't have been allowed to work it into my reading list as a teenager. So there it was, unread. The scandal-book of a generation. Scandal or not, I know the guy can write, so I had to check it out. And surely it couldn't just be about sex in a shed, right?

Well, of course it's not just about sex. To be honest, you could probably choose to read the book on any number of levels; socio-politically, morally, historically. As a statement of a woman's lot in life in aristocratic Britain between two World Wars. Or just as the story of a woman so lonely and in want of being whole that she looks for outside the walls of her prison of privilege for the hope of a small spark of life.

Again, I have to say here that I am in no way a literature scholar, but I've tried over the years not to let 'the classics' intimidate me. Most often if you just start reading them with a mind to be entertained, they will do so. They're not classics without reason! But if you also read with a mind open to other ideas, and with the knowledge that the best writers write in layer upon layer of meaning and nuance, it becomes a bit of a game to see if you can spot where they might be headed. And maybe with this particular book I will be taking Ksenia Anske's advice and read it again just as soon as I'm finished, so that I have the opportunity to gather up even more of the layers and meanings by starting from the beginning just after I've read the end.

But regardless of vast swaths of meaning and grand visions, it has been the WORDS that have excited me so much. I had no idea how starved I really was for someone who knew how to use words like D.H. Lawrence does. I was told that it wasn't a novel he was particularly proud of. Compared to some of the others he's written, this one strikes me as almost stream-of-consciousness, and I wonder if that is part of the reason why that's the case. There's a looseness about it I didn't feel in Sons and Lovers, but I have to say that I LIKE it. It's much easier to get lost in. And when the writing isn't all buttoned up you can see behind it a little easier and watch the writer play with the words. Just as with the sketch before the painting, a little more of the construction shows through. A little more of the thought process peeks out.

Why is it that we won't give ourselves permission to do things until we see someone else doing it first? I so often get down on myself for repeated words. Okay, so maybe my repeated words are accidental repeated words, but Lawrence repeats words CONSTANTLY. I feel liberated. If I want to say something twice but just a bit differently, I will. So there. Take that word analysis documents! And what about using words for things that they're really not meant for? Or in places you least expect them? 
"Little gusts of sunshine blew, strangely bright, and lit up the celandines at the wood's edge, under the hazel-rods, they spangled out bright and yellow."
How can sunshine 'gust'? How can something 'spangle out'? It just makes me want to break all the rules. To let whatever falls out of my head be OKAY.

The events of Lady Chatterley's Lover take place over the slow awakening of spring in England. Some of my very favourite lines are all about the clouds of blooming forget-me-nots and the bluebells, and baby pheasant chicks. That vital upsurge that every creature feels when winter loses its grip and the green starts flowing. That's what the book is all about, I think. It makes you question yourself, and feel for your own pulse and check to see if you, too, have life in you yet.

I have a lot more to say about it, and this will just have to be 'Part 1'. But soaking in such luscious, verdant words was exactly what I needed. I don't care what anyone says, good words, well-expressed are food for the soul. And I'm not feeling quite so parched and starving as I did.

Forget-me-nots image Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos (with a few little amendments by moi)

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