Smith, Betty. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005.
Reason read: I needed a book for the Portland Public Library 2022 Reading Challenge in the category of “A book that makes you feel hopeful for the future.” I don’t know why, but this one does.
It was pointed out that in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn nothing happens. There is no over-the-top drama involving sex, violence, or rock and roll. Instead, A Tree is a simple and honest story about what it means to be human. Harsh realities about poverty, crime, alcoholism, life, and death are not ignored or sugarcoated. I would argue that something does happen in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A little girl comes of age. In the summer of 1912 Francie Nolan was a scrappy eleven year old. At the time, her best friend was a tree that seemed to like poor people. By the end of the story, Francie has lost her father, gained a baby sister, managed to find her way to college, and started to date. It is a story of hope.
One of my favorite moments was when Francie understands for the first time she can read and the fact she would never be lonely again. Books would be her companions for any circumstance. Another favorite scene was when Francie graduates and she receives roses from her deceased daddy. It broke my heart.
Confessional: The scene when Katie is playing the piano with the children bothered me. Neely starts to sign and it is noted his voice is starting to change. It is then that Francie remarks, “You know what Mama would say if she were sitting here now?” Where did she go? She was just playing the piano. I think Smith meant Johnny. Johnny was the one who was missing from the scene.
Signs of the times, “He was a boy, he handled the money.” The candy store was a boys store and Francie had to wait outside while her brother bought her candy.
Phrasing I adored, “ground-down poor” and “helpless relaxation.”
Author fact: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has such clarity it is impossible to ignore its autobiographical nature. Rumor has it, Smith originally wrote the story as a memoir but her publishers urged her to fictionalize it to reach a wider audience. Could they not handle the truth?
Book trivia: My edition had a foreword by Anna Quinlan. She compared Francie to Jo March, Betsy Ray, and Anne of Green Gables. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was also published in an Armed Services edition. The wartime copy was specially sized to fit in a soldier’s rucksack.
Playlist: because Francie’s father is a singing waiter there were lots of great tunes mentioned in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: “There are Smiles That Make You Happy,” At the Darkstrutters’ Ball,” “When You’re a Long, Long Way From Home,” “My Wild Rose,” “Hello, Central, Give Me No Man’s Land,” “You’ll find Old Dixieland in France,” There’s a Quaker Down in Quaker Time,” Ted Lewis’s “For When My Baby Smiles at Me,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” (a song I can remember my mother singing while she vacuumed), “Molly Malone,” “The Soldier’s Chorus,” “When I Get You Alone Tonight,” “Sweet Rosie O’Grady,” “She May Have Seen Better Days,” “I’m Wearin’ My Heart Away for You,” “Ave Maria,” “Beautiful Blue Danube,” “At the Devil’s Ball,” “My Sweetheart’s the Man in the Moon,” “Kerry Dancers,” “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” Harrigan, That’s Me,” “The River Shannon,” “Holy Night,” “Star Spangled Banner,” “Schubert Serenade,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Call Me Up Some Rainy Afternoon,” Handle’s “Largo,” Dvorak’s “New World Symphony,” Verdi, Walter Wildflower, “O, Sole Mio,” “Some Sunday Morning,” “Auld Lang Syne,” “Silent night,” “Annie Laurie,” “Last Rose of Summer,” “Sweet Adeline,” “Down By the Old Mill Stream,” “A Shanty in Shantytown,” “When You Wore a Tulip,” “Dear Old Girl,” ” I’m Sorry I made You Cry,” “Over There,” “K-K-Katy,” “The Rose of No Man’s Land,” “Mother Macree,” and “The Band Played On.”
Nancy said: Pearl called A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a “classic coming-of-age” story.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Girls Growing Up” (p 101).
Casey, John. Spartina. New York: Vintage Books, 1998.
Reason read: Read in respect for the December storms that batter the New England coastline.
Rhode Islander Dick Pierce suffers from a throat-strangling envy of the rich people who flock to his touristy seaside town of Narragansett every summer. His mistress calls it “class-rage.” Money, or the lack of it, makes Dick an ornery man. Most of the time he is able to control his disdain for the wealthy nonsense, but every once in awhile his temper will flare. It is difficult for him, as a year-rounder, to make a back-breaking living as a commercial fisherman while watching his neighbors folic in the house his family used to own. With a wife and two sons to support Dick knows he needs to captain his own vessel to bring in a better profit. He can’t make ends meet crewing for someone else. His saving grace is a 50-foot boat he calls Spartina he has been slowly building in the back yard. Now all he needs is an engine. Desperation to put Spartina in the water leads Dick down a dangerous path of foolish choices and regrettable actions. Drugs, adultery, theft. Nothing is off limits when a man is driven.
Confessional: I couldn’t decide if I liked the main character.
Author fact: Casey has a very intimate knowledge of boats, down to the very last detail. He is from Worcester, just down the road from me.
Book trivia: the history of Rhode Island is threaded through Spartina. It was unexpected to get a little lesson on the Narragansett tribe and their intended use of wampum.
Playlist: “Autumn Leaves,” “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Maybe, Baby,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison.
Nancy said: Pearl said “You could do far worse than spend a reading life perusing books by Iowa’s distinguished MFA alumni…” (Book Lust p 107).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First in the chapter called “Ecofiction” (p 78) and again in “Growing Writers” (p 107). Even though Pearl included this in a chapter called “Ecofiction” it didn’t rule the plot.
Amis, Kingsley. Lucky Jim. New York: Penguin Classics, 1993.
Reason read: December is traditionally the month for final exams in secondary schools. Read in honor of those poor students slogging through their tests.
James Dixon is in a plum position to earn a decent spot as a lecturer in his college’s History Department. The only problem is he is falling in love with his boss’s son’s girlfriend.
You can’t help but laugh out loud during certain scenes in Lucky Jim. Amis has a way of painting the picture so clear you are in the room with the characters, whether you want to or not. The snobbery and pretentious nature of ambition on academia permeates the plot. The description of Dixon’s hangover, filled with images of excrement and death’s decay, had me smirking with remembrance. Been there, done that. I am not a smoker, but Dixon trying to ration his cigarettes gave me a chuckle as well, especially when he’s on the cigarette he should be enjoying a whole day into the future. Sadly, my accolades end there. I found almost everything else about Lucky Jim to be a bore.
Lines I liked, “The sight of her seemed an irresistible attack on his own habits, standards, and ambitions: something designed to put him in his place for good” (p 39) and “As soon as Dixon recognized the mental envelope containing this question he thrust it away from him unopened…” (p 60).
Author fact: rumor has it Amis was not a nice person. I’ve never met him so I can’t comment. He did win the Somerset Maugham Award for Lucky Jim. So there’s that.
Book trivia: One of my favorite illustrators, Edward Gorey, created a cover for an edition of Lucky Jim.
Playlist: Mozart, Richard Strauss, and “Onward Christian Soldiers,”
Nancy said: Pearl called Lucky Jim a classic.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Academia: the Joke” (p 3).
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. New York: HarperPerennial, 2003.
Reason read: Justice John Jay, former governor of New York, was born in December. Read in his memory.
Zinn sums up A People’s History of the United States perfectly in his first chapter, “My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of the states as our own” (p 10). He is willing to look at the whole truth of our nation, as ugly as it may be. There is a lot of dirt to be dug as Zinn is heavy on the quotes and extensive in his expansive research. But, fear not. This is a not a dry textbook account of our people’s history. Zinn is just as quick to insert humor and small amusements such as, “when a[n] [Iroquois] woman wanted a divorce, she set her husband’s things outside the door” (p 20). Interesting characters from all walks of life grace the pages of Zinn’s extraordinary masterpiece. More than a textbook, this should be on everyone’s reading list…even today.
As an aside, I want to ask Mr. Zinn this one question: could you ever imagine our sorry state of national affairs, as they are today, when you first penned the question “Is it possible for whites and blacks to live together without hatred?” I just have three little words: Say. Their. Names.
Author fact: Zinn lived in Massachusetts at the time A People’s History was published.
Book trivia: most people consider A People’s History of the United States a textbook.
Nancy said: Pearl said people rave about Zinn’s A People’s History and Pearl called it revolutionary.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “American History: Nonfiction” (p 19). As an aside, If you had two chapters called “American History” in the same book and the subtitles were Fiction and Nonfiction, which would come first in an alphabetized book?
Keegan, John. The First World War. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.
Reason read: November 11th is Armistice Day. Read for the veterans.
World War One rocked our planet to its core. There wasn’t a corner of the globe that didn’t feel its effects in some way or another. Historians like John Keegan call it the Great War because it left over ten million people dead and countless others shattered both mentally and physically beyond recognition. As Keegan explains, it was the first time world powers used ferocious modernized brutality to subdue their military enemies along with innocent women, children, and livestock. No living creature stood a chance against this new age of warfare. Keegan pushes you into the muddy trenches, onto the blood soaked battle fields, and into the intimate lives of courageous but doomed soldiers. Against this bloody backdrop Keegan also brilliantly sheds light on secret political and religious negotiations, heated war-room strategies, and closed-door council room debates. With Keegan you travel to the Western front, East Africa, the Carpathians and beyond. This is a comprehensive history of one of the most polarizing events known to man.
Confessional: I am usually not a history fanatic, especially when it comes to war of any kind.
Second confessional: I am not a proofreader by any means, but this seems a little too obvious a mistake to overlook, “The French did not speak English, French scarcely any French; General Henry Wilson, Deputy Chief of Staff, translated” (The First World War p 103).
Author fact: Keegan is the master of historical warfare. I am also reading The Second World War for the Challenge.
Book Trivia: The Frist World War offers three sections of photographs and a bunch of maps, all in black and white.
Plat list: “Sambre et Meuse,” and “Le Chant du depart”
Nancy said: Pearl said there are many good general military histories and Keegan’s is one of them.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War I Nonfiction” (p 251).
Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son. Boston: Beacon Press, 1990.
Reason read: November is National Writing Month. I chose Notes of a Native Son under the category of essays.
I have to start off by saying Notes of a Native Son was way too short. I felt that Baldwin could have kept writing and writing. His essays held such clarity and truth they could have been written last year, last month, or even last week. Ranging from an analytical commentary of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin to remembering the time he was jailed in Paris for allegedly stealing a bedsheet, Baldwin expresses his place in society with the utmost frankness. The most tender of moments came when writing about his father, a man with which he had a complicated relationship.
Quotes to quote about hate, “Hate is a very fertile yet dangerous place from which to draw creativity” (p 37), and “I imagine that one of those reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain” (p 91). So true.
Another line I liked, “This seals the action off, as it were, in a vacuum in which the spectacle of color is divested of danger” (p 45).
Author fact: Did you know Baldwin was a preacher for three years, from the age of 14 to 17, or that he was a waiter at 22?
Book trivia: Baldwin talks about writing his first novel. It was interesting to hear about the process.
Nancy said: Pearl said Baldwin is an essayist not to miss.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Essaying Essays” (p 80).
Anonymous. Beowulf. Translated by Seamus Heaney. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001.
Reason read: Another Halloween story.
Everyone raves about Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf and I have to wonder, is it just the translation or could the accompanying gorgeous illustrations and photography have something to do with it? Everyone knows the story of Beowulf the mighty warrior from an English lit class. As a poem, it is the courageous story of a man who learns of a King’s annual nightmare. A monster named Grendel destroys fifteen knights a year without fail and has been doing so for the past twelve years. Beowulf, upon hearing this sad tale, takes it upon himself to vanquish Grendel only to face Grendel’s vengeful mother. Yeah, he kills her, too. Then there’s the fire-breathing dragon (think Bilbo Baggins) who tragically wins over Beowulf. In truth, I had forgotten the graphic violence of men being mauled by the monster Grendel. The clash is pretty dramatic. It would make a great movie. Wait. Knowing my knowledge of movies…it probably is.
As an aside, I have to wonder if this was ever made into a movie? Think about it. The battles full of violence…the claw of Grendel’s as a trophy. What a great prop for the big screen!
Lines I liked, “But it was mostly beer doing the talking” (p 37),”He is hasped and hooped and hirpling with pain, limping and looped in it” (p 65). Even though hasped and hirpling are not used in everyday vocabulary, you can envision the monster in sever pain.
Author fact: No one has ever been given credit for writing Beowulf although hundred of people have translated it.
Book trivia: Heaney’s translation won the Whitbread Award.
Nancy said: Pearl said Heaney’s translation of Beowulf beautiful.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry: a Novel Idea” (p 186).
King, Stephen. Carrie. New York: Doubleday, 1974.
King, Stephen. Carrie. Read by Sissy Spacek. New York: Recorded Books, 2005.
Reason read: Halloween is in October. Not much is scarier than Stephen King. Read in his honor.
The absolute scariest thing about most Stephen King novels is that they are only slightly out of the realm of impossible. With a little twist of science and magic any of his stories could be reality. Take Carrie: could a girl with telekinesis powers; one who is bullied relentlessly at home and school, be pushed to the point of a colossal psychotic break; one which causes her to go more than a little berserk? Well, sure. Especially if this same said girl has an overly devout yet highly paranoid mother who loves her to the point of fanatic torture. Most definitely.
Carietta “Carrie” White was bullied and tortured all through grade, middle, and high school. For her schoolmates she was an easy target with her abundance of acne, weird ill-fitting clothes, severe lack of hygiene, and apparently absent communication skills. Her uncomprehending grunts and blank stares only fueled their taunts. Unfortunately, there is one classmate who wants to make it up to Carrie.
What makes Carrie so scary is how King intersperses the story with snippets from psychological papers regarding Carrie and her telekinesis. These interruptions give a sense of reality to the horror.
Author fact: Carrie was King’s first novel and it launched him into stardom.
Book trivia: Carrie was made into a movie in 1976 and are you ready for this, I actually saw it. There was another remake in 2013 which, you guessed it, I didn’t see.
Playlist: “Hey Jude,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Just Like a Woman,” and Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.”
Nancy said: in general Pearl said horror was her least favorite genre and she mentioned Carrie.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
Crichton, Michael. Jurassic Park. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.
Reason read: October is National Dinosaur Month. What better book to read than something that combines dinosaurs with a little Halloween scariness?
It is hard to imagine that in Jurassic Park only 24 hours pass on a remote Costa Rican island. Deep in the jungle lies a high-tech amusement park built by greed and commercialized genetic bioengineered DNA. The main attraction? Living, breathing dinosaurs supposedly super safe behind huge moats, tall electric fences, and concrete walls so thick they rival World War II fortresses. What could possibly go wrong with fifteen species of cloned, female dinosaurs? The engineers supposedly thought of everything. They thought wrong. Everyone knows the rest of the story, either through reading the novel or watching the movie. I will say that one reviewer called Jurassic Park “tornado-paced.” They were not wrong.
As an aside, I found Lex to be the most annoying creature on earth. Maybe that’s why I don’t have kids. She watches a dinosaur attack a man and she whines she is hungry. She nearly dies herself and whines that she is hungry. Give the kid some fries!
Author fact: Crichton is a powerhouse of a writer in the literary world. I am only reading Jurassic Park for the Challenge but he has written best sellers like Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man, Great Train Robbery, Congo, and Sphere as well as some nonfiction.
Book trivia: Jurassic Park made its way to the big screen in 1993 where it was an instant success. The sequel came four years later. Thus a franchise was born with four more Jurassic movies produced between 2001 and 2019. A fifth Jurassic is promised for 2022.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Jurassic Park. She only mentioned Crichton as a horror writer.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.
Reason read: I started reading this in September but I can’t remember why. I learned that the paperback version was released in the month of October so I’ll go with that.
This is the anti-war anthem of baby boomers. Army Air Corps Captain John Yossarian can’t stand flying missions even though he’s a trained bombardier. As a pacifist, he will do anything to avoid combat missions. Most of Catch-22 is Yossarian constantly getting caught up in red tape and dealing with crazy people in even crazier situations. The combination of multiple points of view and no sense of chronology drove me crazy. Admittedly, I did not finish Catch-22 even though it’s a pretty short and easy to read book. I got caught up in how disorganized it all seemed to be. As an aside, I was talking to the president of my institution and was pleasantly surprised to learn he didn’t care for Catch-22 either. He was as lost with the absurdity of it all as I was. To me, it was the repetition. I am not a fan of hearing something a thousand times ten different ways.
Quotes to quote, “Men went mad and were rewarded with medals,” and “Hungry Joe was a throbbing, ragged mass of mobile irritability.”
Author fact: Joseph Heller’s first novel was Catch-22.
Book trivia: Catch-22 was made into a movie in 1970 starring Art Garfunkel, Orson Welles, and John Voight. Of course, I haven’t seen it. Is anyone surprised? It would drive my husband absolutely crazy to know this is on my list. He loves war crap.
Playlist: “The Star Spangled Banner”
Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Catch-22 because the plot is similar to Kafka’s The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War. They are both black comedies about an unwilling soldier dealing with bizarre military bureaucracy.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Czech it Out” (p 70). Since Catch-22 has nothing to do with the Czech Republic, it shouldn’t be in the chapter.
O’Connor, Flannery. Everything That Rises Must Converge. New York: The Library of America, 1988.
Reason read: September is Southern Writers Month.
Flannery O’Connor’s short stories are like the crack of the whip dangerously close to your head. Sometimes humorous, sometimes peculiar, often times violent, but always breathtakingly true. Imagine the nervous laughter that bubbles up when you realize that whip has missed your face. You laugh because you want it to be a skillful miss as opposed to a clumsy mistake. Imagine the quirkiness of characters who are dangerously misunderstood. There is always something a little sinister about O’Connor. She enjoys the abrupt turn of events that take her readers by surprise. She holds us witness to the good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity.
Everything That Rises Must Converge is a compilation of nine short stories:
- “Everything That Rises Must Converge” – we start with the discomfort of a mother’s obvious prejudice.
- “Greenleaf” – a fight over property and propriety.
- “A View of the Woods” – a punch to the gut when you least expect it.
- “The Enduring Chill” – another tale about an overbearing mother.
- “The Comforts of Home” – mother and son disagree about taking a brash girl into their home.
- “The Lame Shall Enter First” – a widower tried to take in a second son with horrible results.
- “Revelation” – another story heavy on the racism.
- “Parker’s Back” – a man obsessed with tattoos
- “Judgement Day” – an elderly and racist father is terrified of dying in New York City.
Quotes I liked, “There was a continuous thud in the back of Asbury’s head as if his heart and got trapped in it and was fighting to get out” (p 565), and “Behind the newspaper Julian was withdrawing into the inner compartment of his mind where he spent most of his time” (p 603), and “In addition to her other bad qualities, she was forever sniffing up sin” (p 655).
Author fact: Flannery O’Connor died too young at the age of thirty-nine. Imagine the books and stories she could have written had she lived to a hundred!
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Everything That Rises Must Converge in “Growing Writers” or “Southern Fiction” but she did mention O’Connor as a great fiction-writer and a classic.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. Once in the chapter called “Growing Writers” (p 107), and again in the chapter called “Southern Fiction” (p 222).
Toole, John. Kennedy. A Confederacy of Dunces. New York: Grove Press, 1980.
Reason read: Why was this book on my list? I completely forgot. Probably something having to do with Hurricane Katrina.
Confederacy of Dunces is like cilantro: either you love it and you want it on anything and everything, or you hate it and you think it tastes like soap; you can’t come within ten feet of it. Meet Ignatius J Reilly, the trumpet and lute playing, obese and unemployed, lazy and insolent video gamer still living with his mother at thirty years old. He truly is the master of the deadly sin of sloth.
Reading Confederacy of Dunces was like playing the Untangle Me Game. You know, the one you play with string. Take twenty extremely long pieces of string, tangle them all around a room and then have twenty people chose an end to each piece of string. They must try to crawl over and under one another in an effort to untangle the mess. There are usually prizes at the other end of each string. Trying to follow the plot of Confederacy of Dunces was like trying to crawl under someone with extremely bad body odor in the hopes your entanglement will wind its way far, far away from the offending smell. Except. There was no prize at the end. I didn’t get it. In addition, I have a low tolerance for repetition and Confederacy is redundant on multiple levels. I will say, the best part of Confederacy was the culture of New Orleans. It lived and breathed like an unintended character. The parts about New Orleans I laughed about.
Line I liked, “When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip” (p 6). Okay. Funny.
Author fact: John Kennedy Toole at thirty-one committed suicide in a remote field. Maybe he was too much like Ignatius and couldn’t find his way to success.
Book trivia: Many different people have tried to make A Confederacy of Dunces into a movie. I don’t think it has happened yet.
Nancy said: Pearl said that A Confederacy of Dunces is an example of “What Mothers Ought Not to Do” (p 160). She also called it a “raucous tragicomedy” (p 168).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mothers and Sons” (p 160) and again in the chapter called “New Orleans” (p 168).
Manning, Olivia. Friends and Heroes. New York: New York Review Books, 1966.
Reason read: to finish the series started in June in honor of the Bosnian War.
When we catch up with the newlyweds, Guy and Harriet Pringle, they have escaped the Balkans to Athens, Greece. World War II is ramping up. Mussolini is ever encroaching yet the Greeks refuse to believe the Italians could invade them. No! Not them! In the midst of a global conflict, the Pringle marriage is also at conflict. Harriet still hungers for Guy’s attention. It’s a little off-putting how needy she is. Having escaped Bucharest Harriet believes her husband will finally put her first. She is not the outsider in Greece as she was in the Balkans. However, Guy continuously lives for the undivided attention of his students no matter where he is relocated. As an unemployed lecturer, he fills his time putting on plays with his admiring students and friends. He is so preoccupied with their rapt attention he doesn’t notice or care that his wife slips away for long walks. In truth, he often encourages it. His continual pawning her off to other companions soon leads to her actively seeking out a new crush. The Pringle marriage is so trying that I wanted her to go with the man who seemed to love her back.
This being the third installment of the Balkan Trilogy, many characters remain. Yakimov and his greed end up in Greece. I found his character to be an exaggerated caricature: always hungry and riling people. But speaking of characters, Manning is able to make all of her characters give a political commentary on World War II without having the rely of detailed descriptions. It is all in their dialogue.
Quotes to quote, “He only had to arrive to take a step away from her” (p 654), “No one would dance while friends and brothers and lovers were at the war” (p 657), and “She told herself that animals were the only creatures that could be loved without any reservation at all” (p 962).
Author fact: Manning lived the life of Friends and Heroes. She and her husband spent the war years in Rumania before escaping to Greece and then Egypt.
Book trivia: Friends and Heroes could be a stand-alone novel, but is best read as the finale of the Balkan Trilogy.
Playlist: “Tipperary,” “Yalo, Yalo,” “Down By the Seaside,” “Clementine,” “Bells Rang Again,” and “Anathema,”
Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Friends and Heroes. It’s not mentioned at all.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Reads, Decade by Decade (1960s).
Lawrence, D.H. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. New York: Signet Classics, 1959.
Reason read: Let’s talk about sex.
You know a book is trouble when it’s published privately in Italy in 1928 and again in France a year later. It wasn’t published openly to the masses until 1960 when it was promptly banned across the world. The United States, Canada, Australia, India, and Japan all found fault with it. Finally, when it was at the center of a 1960 British obscenity trial, things came to a head. No pun intended. Not really.
Who doesn’t know this story? Lady Chatterley is an attractive upper-class woman married to an equally handsome man who happens to be paralyzed from the waist down. Connie is young, spoiled, and has certain…needs. Her husband says he understands, but a man and wife’s varying perceptions of the same marriage are striking. Clifford Chatterley doesn’t really understand the resentments of his wife. A poignant scene is when Connie watches a mother hen protect her eggs and feels empty. She wants a child. She wants a lover. She finds solace in the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors, who lives on the grounds. His cottage is a short distance from the estate…It is the classic tale of class differences. Lawrence goes a bit further by exploring themes of industrialism (Clifford wants to modernize mining with new technology) and mind-body psychology (the struggle between the heart and mind when it involves sexuality, especially when it is illicit in nature). The ending is ambiguous, as typical of Lawrence’s work, but it ends with hope.
As an aside, I would have liked more insight from Connie’s sister, Hilda. Hilda helped Connie have her affair even though she sided with Clifford Chatterley. Another aside, I have often wondered how many people self-pleasured themselves with Lady Chatterley or her lover. Wink.
Lines I liked, “What the eye doesn’t see and the mind doesn’t know doesn’t exist” (p 18) and “If I could sleep with my arms round you, the ink could stay in the bottle” (p 282). Sigh. So romantic.
Author fact: Lawrence went into self-imposed exile because he refused to stop writing about the human condition. His critics couldn’t handle the truth and often banned or censored his work. Lady Chatterley is rumored to be autobiographical in some places.
Book trivia: The genre for Lady Chatterley’s Lover is literary erotica and yet some libraries (including my own) catalog this in the juvenile section. True story. I happen to be reading the Signet Classic edition which is the only complete unexpurgated version authorized by the Lawrence estate. According to the back cover, “no other edition is entitled to make this claim.”
Nancy said: Pearl included Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the list of “stellar” examples of literary erotica.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Sex and the Single Reader” (p 218).