Having watched the BBC adaptation of the book I was curious to see how my memory of Lawrence’s classic stood the test of time. I last read “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” when I was in my early twenties and even then I wasn’t over impressed. The so called erotic scenes did nothing for me. In fact, like a lot of Lawrence, I found them comical. “Loin worship” and sticking flowers in pubic hair simply don’t do it for me, though the former might if I could work out what it actually meant. In spite of his insistence on the importance of the body and the physical Lawrence can be very vague. I once went to a hilarious reading group session, when a group of us tried to work out exactly what was supposed to be happening in a key scene in “Women in Love.”
Having re-read Lady C I am no more impressed now than I was way back then. In my opinion the book is grossly over-rated. It’s badly written, sprinkled with exclamation marks, over use of repetition, Sir Clifford turns yellow three times in the space of two pages, and full of expressions such as “her bowels fainted.” This I have to admit to being my favourite and possible material for another blog ie: how do bowels perform that activity? is it a medical problem, or all in the mind, a metaphor for…etc, etc.?
The other thing that struck me was what an angry book it was. The main thrust of the piece, excuse the pun I couldn’t help it, was not the erotic connection between the lovers, but the class war in which both Mellors and Sir Clifford are engaged. Both characters rant on the subject and interestingly enough share similar views about the ghastliness of the working classes.
The theme of industrialisation is also paramount and it is hard not to agree with Lawrence’s view of the devastation of the countryside. His answer that all men should wear red trousers be proud of their legs and live as they did before the advent of machines, somehow does not quite convince.
The upshot of all this, is that it set me thinking about books we rate as classic and those which will endure. I would imagine we could all agree on those that won’t, but which novelists currently writing will be deemed worth studying in the next century?
PS The BBC did a brilliant job. If you haven’t seen it then catch up now.