Friday, March 31, 2006

Is it a blog you would wish your wife or servants to read?

Yesterday was a bad bed day. I was listening to radio programmes most of the day and yet I can only remember one thing I listened to, which was a dramatisation of Metropolis - and that was pretty confusing.

In the evening I must have woken up a bit as I watched an Andrew Davies drama that Mum had recorded for me about the Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial and very much enjoyed this. They built on a fictional love affair between two of the jurors, but everything from the courtroom was as was. I’m not sure the added frills were particularly effective, rather like the wet shirt scene in the director’s version of Pride and Prejudice – although at least this time we got some full-frontal male nudity. Which is always a novelty.

I love the story of the Chatterley trial because it involved so many heroes who stuck their neck out, putting reputations and even liberty on the line (Allen Lane was prepared to go to prison) for the ordinary person’s right to read what was considered a dirty book. Not only was this victory over censorship, but over class prejudice and sexism.

And I love to hear people make an argument. Would have liked to see more of the literary megastars that turned up to testify on the book's behalf and whilst the original ban does seem extremely prudish now, I would have liked to hear someone who had a reasonable argument for the ban at the time. Instead I'm afraid the prosecution and the book's opponents were presented as being a bunch of old farts and I'm not so naïeve to imagine it was as simple as all that.

Lady Chatterley's Lover is a great book, and contains less words which we now consider swear-words than Huckleberry Finn. Slightly more sex than Huck Finn though, as I recall.

Some feminists have criticised Lawrence for being preoccupied with his thingeme-bob and supporting the idea that women can only achieve any sort of personal fulfilment in the context of sexual relations with men. I don’t think this is fair. For a start we have to remember that he is writing about two particular characters at any one time as opposed to some universal model for social and political relations between men and women. And for example, in Chatterley,
Constance is not fulfilled by any kind of servitude or submission to a man - perhaps submission to her passion, which results in liberation and a complete rebellion from the patriachy. This passion happens to be for a man, but hey.

I honestly think Lawrence writes more convincingly about sexual passion than almost any other writer; he writes as if he is equally in love both with Constance and Mellors - and both the male and female characters in his other books (despite everything we know, some folks immediately read his love for his male characters as Lawrence being in love with himself) .

Disabled people also have an argument with the device of Clifford Chatterley's paralysis and the idea that this lead to Constance’s frustration and adultery. It did, but it was very much the strategy that Clifford chose which lead to the death of their marriage, not the impairment itself. In many ways, Clifford rejected her, wanting no more physical affection and pretty much opted to be an invalid. He also suggested she take a lover to provide him with an heir, so what is a girl to do?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A lot of people thought at the time that the prosecution was so ridiculous that it must have been a set-up to ensure that LC set a precedent for literary freedom: not so.

Desperate attempts were made to find even one reputable literary person to support the case: they even tried Evelyn Waugh, arch-blimp as he was by then.

They can't have read his early novels; in any case, his refusal was, apparently, sulphurous.