Thursday, February 02, 2012

Thursday extracts. The style of D. H. Lawrence

This might be a strange confession for a keen reader, but I have never read any D. H Lawrence before. Since moving to this area six years ago I've been meaning to, ater all, he lived and worked just up the road, but I've not got round to it before.  I am currently dragging my way through Women in Love, the novel he considered his best. It's hard work. He has a very annoying habit.

When I was being taught to write I was discouraged from repeating words. I was told that they chime in the reader's head and can distract from the story. Of course, I was a journalist and the story was the most important thing. Style was necessary, but only to enhance the reader's comprehension. So Lawrence's insistence on tolling the same words, often immediately after their first use, is deeply disturbing to me.

Here's some examples:
  • The two women were jeering at him, jeering him into nothingness. The laugh of the shrill, triumphant female sounded from Hermione, jeering him as if he were a neuter.
  •  She only needed his conjunction with her. And this, this conjunction with her
  •  `To know, that is your all, that is your life -- you have only this, this knowledge,' he cried.
  • `Hadn't they better be anything than grow up crippled, crippled in their souls, crippled in their feelings
  • Isn't anything better than this? Better be animals, mere animals with no mind at all, than this, this nothingness
On the other hand, some of his descriptions are exquisite.

A SCHOOL-DAY was drawing to a close. In the class-room the last lesson was in progress, peaceful and still. It was elementary botany. The desks were littered with catkins, hazel and willow, which the children had been sketching. But the sky had come overdark, as the end of the afternoon approached : there was scarcely light to draw any more. Ursula stood in front of the class, leading the children by questions to understand the structure and the meaning of the catkins.
A heavy, copper-coloured beam of light came in at the west window, gilding the outlines of the children's heads with red gold, and falling on the wall opposite in a rich, ruddy illumination.

I'll let you know how I get on.


snafu said...

I found his writing difficult, but aside from attempting and giving up on Women in Love, I have only read the obligatory pages from Lady Chatterley’s Lover when I was at school, whilst Lady C was the top news story of the period as the rights and wrongs of censorship of literature was being argued in the courts.

Sandra Davies said...

I hate to admit it but I am shockingly blind to style when I am reading fiction, even when I tell myself I am going to pay attention.
And so I hadn't noticed this quirk of D.H.Lawrence, but then I know I have used the repeated word for effect myself on occasion, but (I like to think) with a little more sensitivity. I did read his earlier version of Lady C ('John Thomas and Lady Jane')a couple of years ago and could not put it down, so assume I was not jarred.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anne .. not being an author or journalist - none of the passages upset me - in fact I rather liked them ... but would I like the whole - I do not know. I saw Women in Love in Cork in the 60s .. and like Snafu dashed through Lady C in much the same way when I found it at home ... One day I'll give him a read and see what I think .. hope you give an update on your progress ..

Cheers for now - Hilary

Wendy said...

Oh that is just terrible. How on earth will you get through it all? I must say I do notice repetitive use of words even between sentences. I point them out to writers who ask me for reviews. It's just downright annoying when you read the words "conjure up" every couple of paragraphs. 