Friday, 1 April 2011

I tried, I really did....

D H Lawrence, famous son of Nottingham
Last night I watched the second episode of the BBC's new adaptation of  D.H Lawrence's 'Women in Love'.  Then I went to bed and lay there, feeling more and more angry and not really being able to understand why.

The thing is, I have some history with this.  I was born in Nottinghamshire.  Most of my family comes from there, and I still have some relatives living in Nottingham.  My parents romance was played out against the background of the Lace Market and the Trent.  My father went to the same school as Lawrence.  Lawrence also lived in Zennor, in Cornwall, during the First World War, and its a place I love. (If you want to know more about that, read the wonderful 'Zennor in Darkness' by Helen Dunmore, in which he appears.)   And Lawrence was one of the great Modernist writers of the 20th century, along with Joyce and Woolf.  Woolf is one of my great heroines, of course.  I 'did' the Modernists for my degree, read Lady Chatterley and various short stories, as well as Lawrence's essays on American Literature, which was necessary for my American Studies degree component.  So I have every reason to feel obliged to like D H Lawrence.

But the thing is, I don't.

Oh, I've tried and tried.  I admire his 'project' of promoting being in closer touch with our bodies, and in our increasingly 'dis-embodied' society, I think its so much more important to get out of our heads and into our bodies.  Few people have suffered from this as much as I have. 

But the thing is, when Lawrence writes about sex, he has to do it in such a roundabout way because of the sensitivities of the time, and because of his philosophy, that its almost impossible to understand what he's on about.  And then he'll go off on a rant about class consciousness.  During last night's episode, I could hardly make out what anyone was arguing about, because the dialogue was so obtuse.  In the end, I just wanted to knock all their heads together.  There have been all kinds of accusations that Lawrence is actually a misogynist, and not the feminist he claimed to be. He does leave me feeling a bit squeamish about his portrayal of women.

AA Gill reviewed the first episode in the Sunday Times last week, and said that Lawrence's project is simply outdated.  We don't need it anymore.  I hate to agree with such a creature, but I think now he may be right.  The only part of that episode that seemed important and touching to me was the tender re-ignition of the parental Brangwens' marriage.  I think the recognition that love is not something confined to the beautiful young, but is crucial to the happiness of all ages, is the only lesson left to take away from the old horndog.

1 comment:

  1. I've tried reading Lawrence and my conclusion was that he's just not a good writer.

    The plots are thin, the people unbelievable, the attempts to describe emotions are silly and forced, and the dialogue ridiculous (not because of changing idiom - I can enjoy and be convinced by much older language from other writers).

    So I'd say it's not you, it's him.