Lady Chatterley’s Lover: A Saucy Romp Through Unexamined Prejudice

18 02 2011

First things first, yeah. I am the last human being on earth to criticise anyone for objectifying Northern dudes, yeah? Cause thanks to Jarvis Cocker existing in my formative years,that is like basically all I do. Though obvs Mellors isn’t even Northern because he is from Nottingham, which is in the Midlands and not the North, no matter what a million Lawrence critics and anyone from Nottingham who doesn’t want to be lumped in with Brummies tells you, it is just not the North. And no-one has ever tried to eroticise the midlands as the midlands; it cannot be done.

Northern or not, yeah, fair enough, if I lived in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do all day than talk to a grumpy pretentious bumface about plays, I would certainly be out there in the woodshed giving it to him every which way. But he’s still a total arse. It is the mysterious way of lurve however that hitting that often results in for some reason tolerating the batshit offensive opinions of that, and before you know it you’re up the duff and have left your minted husband and are living in some crappy bedsit receiving waffley letters from that. Living the dream.

Apparently no-one told Clifford that there is still totes sextimes you can has even if your bits aren’t fully functioning. But then that’s probably because THE CLITORIS IS EVIL. Seriously. And now that you can’t bum a lady against her will you’ve got nothing to live for. She loves it really. I mean, she actually does because D.H. Lawrence writes it so that contrary to all physical and emotional probability bumrape is great. Although you may have to read that (back) passage a few times before you even realise bumtimes are happening, because it sounds more like she is on acid and/or having an out of body experience. Anyway, conveniently it doesn’t really matter that Clifford is crippled for life, cause he was never that into doing it anyway, and so he isn’t really a human being cause wanting to do it to ladies is the only thing that matters, and it’s not like disabled people have proper feelings and that. Let’s just consider him a clunky trope with a face.

Lawrence makes it sound like it is a moral failing for a lady not to come from the mighty powers of cock alone. Apparently ladies do this intentionally in order to piss off the men by having power over them, because not having enjoyed sex makes you powerful. Yes it does. You might think it just makes you frustrated or feel bad, but no, it is totes powertimes. Unlike men ladies have the ability to choose whether they want to have an orgasm or not, and obviously they decide not to in order to control poor old men who can’t help it because they are no better than animals. But being an animal is a good thing whereas being a cold frigid evil woman is bad. With me so far? I’m not sure if I am. But it gets better, because it turns out that even though you might think that a lady enjoying sex is a Good Thing because it means she isn’t using her amazing not enjoying sex powers to ruin everything for men, that’s ALSO bad, because of reasons. Like, er.. ummmrhhrumfsh. Yeah that one. Therefore Mellors’s wife is a terrible evil harlot because she wants to have actually enjoyable sex with him. What a bitch. And it is all the fault of her “beak” which is what Lawrence brilliantly calls her clitoris. She does this on purpose to hurt him because she for totes hates him because obviously wanting to have sex with your own husband and expecting him to be ok with you enjoying it is the work of satan himself. YOU WILL ORGASM WOMAN FROM MY MIGHTY COCK BUT ONLY WHEN AND HOW I TELL YOU TO AND IN NO OTHER WAY.

Speaking of Lawrence’s brilliant use of words, I really think someone should have given him a thesaurus for Christmas. I mean, he published three editions of it, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that each time he changed it he went through with big red pen circling the synonyms and taking them out. I have lost count of the times he uses the phrase “bitch-goddess Success”. OVER AND OVER. And in case you don’t want to punch him enough from first of all that being an embarrassingly clunky and self-satisfied (and let’s not forget: misogynistic! Never forget that!) I am pretty sure he stole the phrase off of Waugh anyway. The whole thing is rife with that sort of drawling clever-clever “smart” ’20s slang that makes it sound like it was narrated by a yammering toff at a cocktail party, which is just jarringly discordant with all the yokel-y tomfoolery you get from Mellors, who’s two parts pompous windbag to one part borderline-tourettes like some sort of ‘offensive uncle who backs you into a corner at wedding receptions’ cocktail.

Even the ‘rolling about in brambles’ mad love of nature bits are hypocritical and exploitative, because it’s not nature as of itself, it’s nature that is cultivated, used for livestock, and turned into gardens that resemble an untouched landscape but aren’t; it functions as basically just a bulwark against the masses who have the temerity to want to earn money and enjoy themselves and go to the cinema. Given that Mellors is supposed to be some sort of working class hero or at least a symbol for the working classes in popular imagination, he has got some pretty serious contempt for his own kind.

Richard Hoggart just called, he reckons you’ve got a lot to talk about.

It’s not Lawrence’s fault that people are stupid, I suppose, or that the popular perception of books tends to smooth out nuance. As a result a lot of people have wasted time arguing with what the see as the Smutty Snigger school of interpretation. In doing this they’re all like “no, it’s about freedom and selfhood and earthy sensuality and that”, which to me seems to be just as much missing the point. Just cause a novel has sex in that doesn’t make it a novel about sex. Hell, think about real life, how many times have you had actual sex without it being about sex?

(Or maybe that’s just me. Er.)

Ignore both the people who think this book is all sex and the people who think it’s liberating and earthy and made the 60s happen. It’s just some badly written twats being twats to each other in the middle of nowhere and trying to control each other, and for the ones that are woman its pretty much the suck, blah blah.

Which is kind of what Wuthering Heights does except at least everyone’s dramatically a twat in that.

Living in the middle of nowhere: it is dangerous to your taste in men and your ability to make decisions that wont be terrible. I know this to be fact.


The Mysterious Mr. Quin: Agatha Christie in Phoning it in Shocker

27 12 2010

Let’s just get one thing straight: I bloody love Agatha Christie. But that will not stop me from saying loud and proud (well, whispering quietly and shamefacedly) that she is just not that great of a writer. Techincally speaking and that. Usually her clunky dialogue and obvious plot devices (not to mention her disappointingly male gaze-y descriptions of female characters) don’t really matter because she gets the rest of it so right. But there are other times when you just want to say to her, “Look, you’ve written a bazillion books already! Don’t rush this one. You don’t need the money. Just put your feet up and have a G&T and we can leave this in a drawer somewhere, yeah? I hear there’s a rather entertaining play on the wireless later…”

Oh Ags. If only you’d had a friend like me.

Sadly you didn’t, and the net result was Mr Satterthwaite, a fussy, snobbish old man who enjoys poking his nose into other people’s business and solving implausible coincidences — sorry, mysteries — with his semi-supernatural magic-rainbow-producing gay crush. In all probability he’s hallucinating for at least 30% of the book. Why do rainbows and shit mysteries suddenly appear, every time you are near? Just like me, they long to be, part of these dreadful stories.

Well, I say he solves them, but actually the whole plot develops around whatever would be useful being true in order to chime in with whatever stupid dénouement old Ags has got planned so while he come across as borderline psychic, it’s simply that she left the scaffolding on when she built this one.

I’d like to point out as an aside that Agatha said that Sats and old Quinny mcQuinface were her favourite characters. BATSHIT ALERT. Never trust an author to say what stuff what they done wrote is any cop. It’s always hobbledeehock. I mean, Quin doesn’t even have any character. I despise the overuse (and frequent misuse) of the word literally, but seriously dudes, literally all he does is rock up and ask Sat a bunch of questions and then bugger off again into the mysterious ether from whence he came. For all we know he might be a formidable chess player, a talented bassoonist, a generous and skilled lover and a cooker of a mean spaghetti carbonara. A man who enjoys slightly misty October days and often wonders if he would be happier if he had trained as a doctor, and whether Wendy really meant that thing she said to him in Dover all those years ago. Who knows. That would sure as hell be a lot more interesting than what we do find out about him, which is sweet diddly squat. He is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a vest. Or, you know, a lazy plot device / supernatural exposition machine/ the fevered projection of a closeted nutbag. I’m taking all bets.

Lest you should think I’m singling out Quin for criticism vis a vis having no personality, the rest of them are just as bad. Apart from Satterthwaite, who after all is the NARRATOR, everyone is the whole damn book might as well be a cardboard cut out. The characterisation is so non existent and the things that happen to them so implausible and obviously contrived — and most of it the unverifiable conjecture of a nosy old twat anyway — that it is literally impossible to give a shit about them at all. If you can even remember which of them is which, which I doubt. I’m really sorry Agatha, but you have to remember you are no Graham Greene. You can’t just write half a line about someone and think that counts as indicating their proclivities or past. The whole of this god damn collection just seems like she hastily scrawled it on the back on an envelope whilst drunk and then couldn’t be arsed with changing any of it.

Do any murderers ever think dressing up as a ghost will be a good way to avoid detection? Does anyone need a daft old git and his imaginary friend to work out what happened when ballistics experts exist? Does the love of a good woman cure terminal diseases? What the hell is even happening in half the time?

You may remember the old “invisible servants” trope from such rants as Wuthering Heights, and, I suspect, most of Western literature from about 1693–1957. But this one really stands out among Christie’s other works for just treating everyone beneath an Earl as either non-existent (how DO they get the napkins so starched around here? must be magic. everything else in this book conveniently is) or of no interest.
I mean, come on! At least Poirot actually talks to working class people. Often as equals. It’s one of his little trademark quirks that unlike the stupid old British labouring under the great burden of their class assumption, quick-witted plucky Belgian Poirot can actually talk to poor people! As if they are humans! And thus he finds the answers that stuck up Scotland Yard and/or any poshos lying around, e.g. Hastings, are too set in their ways to even consider. Bully for him vive le socialisme etc.

What Satterthwaite and he have in common is a certain Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons -esque feeling of “oh I’ve wasted my life”. But unlike Poirot’s wistful and underplayed gestures towards loneliness, old Sat is definitely going to let you know that things didn’t pan out quite the way he had planned. He never quite comes out and says “if only it had worked out with Eric”, or, you know, just comes out, but it’s there in every other word he does say. It’s unfortunate for us all, however, that loneliness has not made him bitter, because instead he spends all his time matchmaking anyone under the age of 50 who happens to cross his path. The underlying theme of all of these so-called mysteries is the bringing together of some couple or other, because obviously you can force people to fall in love just like that. But then romantic realism is not something Ags is really known for; the ends of cases are frequently sealed by some implausible hetronormative happy ending.

There you have it: it is better to have loved and lost than to be surrounded by coincidences that make no sense and hallucinating a tall dark carny who fucks up the laws of physics.