Is Bitchdom Dead in American Fiction?

An excellent read!

As I read Laura Zigman’s hilarious, poignant novel, Separation Anxiety, I kept thinking, “I love this character, but she should be bitchier.” I mean, Judy is kind of bitchy. She and her anxious husband, Gary, are relentlessly critical of other people. But Judy often back-pedals afterwards, showing her soft side. And yet surely she is entitled to bitchy observations: the poor woman is so anxious that she “wears” the dog in a baby sling for comfort.

Is bitchdom dead in American fiction? Well, that is not my area of expertise. But off the top of my head, I would say American bitchdom throve in the 20th century. Especially memorable are the tough bitches of the 1930s and ’40s.

Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936) was everybody’s favorite bitch, as they incredulously watched her claw her way to the top through sex, marriage, and unscrupulous business practices. Then there was James M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce (1941), in which Mildred steals her hard-working restaurateur mother’s upper-class boyfriend to get ahead as a singer. In Lillian Hellman’s play The Little Foxes (1939), Regina Hubbard Giddens lets her husband Horace die of a heart attack to get control of the finances. And in Nancy Hale’s unputdownable pulp novel, The Prodigal Women (1943), Leda March, the intellectual daughter of a well-to-do Boston family, betrays one of her childhood friends by stealing her husband, Lambert: since Maizie has become a frump, Leda has no mercy, thinking it is Maizie’s fault that she ends up in a mental hospital. (Actually, Lambert insisted on an illegal abortion in South America, which shattered her health.)

We all love reading about such heroines, or at least my mother and her peers did, perhaps because they themselves were so relentlessly proper, with Bridge club their main outing, and exhausted by the Depression. But what about slightly bitchy heroines? I will jump to 2020. There have been a lot of (slightly) bitchy heroines in American fiction this year.

There is Feron Hood in Gail Godwin’s novel Old Lovewood Girls, a working-class girl who remains competitive with her kind upper-class college roommate Merry Grace, because she wants to be the better writer. And there is Lydia in Robert Hellenga’s Love, Death & Rare Books, an intellectual who prefers Romantic poetry to Gabe, the rare bookstore owner who is in unrequited love with her.

But the winner of Worst Bitch of the Year has to be Glenna in Martha McPhee’s superb family saga, A Fashionable Woman. Glenna is a middle-class teacher who deserts her two daughters in Montana to pursue politics and a career. Tommy, her oldest daughter, sells coyote pelts to support herself and her younger sister. Tommy has issues, yet turns out to be a pretty good mother. Her life is a lie, though. (Honestly, this is one of the most underrated novels of the year, one of my favorites.)

Let me end on a positive note. I recommend Zigman’s Separation Anxiety as perfect weekend reading. Zigman is extremely witty, and you will be fascinated by Judy’s musings on her sad, tangled life, which is complicated by issues of separation from men: she and her anxious husband, Gary, cannot afford a divorce, so he lives in the basement; while her beloved teenage son, Teddy, no longer wants to hang out with her. Judy gets my vote as most original heroine of the year.

But, yes, Judy could be slightly bitchier. And we would forgive her.

Who are your favorite bitches in American literature? We want to know.

A Horrifying Post-Apocalyptic Novel: John Christopher’s “The Death of Grass”

I do not decorate with ugly ghosts and witches. I do not read horror on Halloween. I might read a few ghost stories, a little gentle Le Fanu or Pliny’s ghost stories, but beyond that I do not go.

That is, until now, when I mistook the genre of The Death of Grass.

I picked up a used copy, not because I wanted a post-apocalyptic SF novel (not in these times!), but because I had read John Christopher’s Tripod trilogy repeatedly as a child. As a fan, I was interested in his adult work. And I thought The Death of Grass would be along the lines of John Wyndham’s cozy catastrophe, The Day of the Triffids, a post-apocalyptic classic about a group of humans who, after some adventures, comfortably survive the invasion of killer plants that stalk them.

John Christopher’s The Death of Grass is a terrifying novel. There is no coziness or comfort. It focuses on a virus that kills all grasses, including crops of rice, wheat, oats, etc. The Wung-Li virus begins in China and spreads through Asia and finally Europe and England. There is famine, and governments topple. At the time communications shut down in England, the U.S. is still untouched, still sending grain ships to China. But we know America will not be immune.

And the virus sounds only too realistic, and the naive English characters too like you and me. The hero, John Custance, an engineer, and his kind, charitable wife Ann do not believe the virus will come to England. Ann feels terribly sorry for Hong Kong, which is besieged by the starving Chinese. She wishes there were something she could do. But later, she is told repeatedly by her husband that pity is a luxury of the middle class.

“No Blade of Grass” was the American title.

John’s brother, David, a farmer, is the only one who knows what may happen. He has seen patches of the virus-ridden rice grass on his land, and has appropriately followed the government guidelines to kill it. His farm is fortified on three sides by mountains and a river, and he is building a fence on the open side in case of trouble. He asks John, Ann, and their two children to stay and work on the farm. They of course long to return to London.

The background of the virus is mostly told in dialogue. John asks David if he’s heard any news about Peking.

“Nothing official. It’s supposed to be in flames. And at Hong Kong they’ve had to repel attacks across the frontier.”

“A genteel way of putting it,” John said grimly. “Did you ever see those old pictures of the rabbit plagues in Australia? Wire-netting fences ten feet high, and rabbits–hundreds of thousands of rabbits–piled up against them, leap-frogging over each other until in the end either they scaled the fences or the fences went down under their weight. That’s Hong Kong right now, except that it’s not rabbits piled against the fence but human beings.”

Horrifying! And yet I thought I was reading a cozy catastrophe. If I’d stopped right here… on page 12… I would have saved myself dread and trepidation. This is one of the most violent novels I have ever read.

If you like plot, there is a lot of action. I won’t say it is well-written, but it certainly moves. The Custance family’s government PR friend Rodger tips them off that the English government plans to bomb London and other cities so there will be enough food for the ruling class. The Custances and Rodger’s family decide to head for David’s farm. Along the way, they pick up a gun shop owner, Pirrie, and his wife. They make their way out of London, with a lot of violence, since there is a travel ban.

Style-wise, there is very little here. Christopher is a blunt writer, filling the pages with ideas and explanations. Almost everything is explicated through dialogue.

There is also much blood. Ann questions the out-of-control violence wrought by John and his thuggish friend, Pirrie, who really is the one running things.

This is not a cozy catastrophe. I don’t even think this is science fiction. It reads like horror mixed with brutal realism.

But it is not a good novel, by any stroke of the imagination.

All I can say is: only cozy catastrophes will be read here in the future! This was not for me.

Does Everything That Can Go Wrong Go Wrong?

I promised you an end to negativity. That was last week: Ms. Positivity Week. After the results of my blood work, I was ready to become a co-op vegan junkie who hails home-baked beet chips as the new chocolate cookie. At my local (cartoon) food co-op, I would do gentle dumpster-diving for soy yogurt past its expiration date. Then I would join the silent, socially-distanced, socially-conscious vigil in front of the Capitol. Signs scream, “End Homelessness!” “Green Energy Now!” “Black Lives Matter!” “I’m Pro-Choice and I Vote!” How much gentler than the slogans we were raised on. I distinctly remember, “Power to the People! Smash the State!”

This splendid vegan protester phase of my brief anti-negativity fantasy happened while I struggled to reduce what I call “my numbers.” There is nothing wrong with me. Really, there is not. But my blood pressure, which is usually below normal, is now normal–and I want it to go down. Three electronic thermometers at the clinic said that I HAVE NO BODY TEMPERATURE AT ALL. They knew that couldn’t be right, but they gave up. SO WHAT’S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH? One wonders!

As for numbers, I mistrust the clinic’s apparently inexact new equipment. One has to go to the doctor when one is sick, but this emphasis on blood work can make one overwrought. My philosophy is essentially Carpe diem.

Since I’m on the subject of medicine, let me recommend five stunning novels about doctors (or at least medicine).

Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas. I The book description says: Though American, Dr. Antonia Redmond is African-born and has lived in East Africa for almost her entire life. With the end of colonialism, like all whites, she faces exile. Only the intercession of an influential lover preserves her visa, but should she leave, she will not be allowed to return. As the inevitable reckoning comes and the white population dwindles, she clings to the land to which she feels a deep connection. Antonia Saw the Oryx First is a profound exploration of personal and cultural identity, love and leave-taking.

The Citadel by A. J. Cronin. Book description: The Citadel follows the life of Andrew Manson, a young and idealistic Scottish doctor, as he navigates the challenges of practicing medicine across interwar Wales and England. Based on Cronin’s own experiences as a physician, The Citadel boldly confronts traditional medical ethics, and has been noted as one of the inspirations for the formation of the National Health Service.

Cider House Rules by John Irving. Book description: Raised from birth in the orphanage at St. Cloud’s, Maine, Homer Wells has become the protege of Dr. Wilbur Larch, its physician and director. There Dr. Larch cares for the troubled mothers who seek his help, either by delivering and taking in their unwanted babies or by performing illegal abortions. Meticulously trained by Dr. Larch, Homer assists in the former, but draws the line at the latter. Then a young man brings his beautiful fiancee to Dr. Larch for an abortion, and everything about the couple beckons Homer to the wide world outside the orphanage .

Doctors & Nurses by Lucy Ellmann. Ellmann was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Ducks, Newburyport, but her earlier novels are satiric. Book description: Nursing is a noble calling. So what the hell attracted Jen, a gigantic nurse with a habit of killing her patients? Now she’s had the temerity, and misfortune, to fall in love with her boss, a dishy dashing doc known throughout the land for his long limbs, grey eyes, cleft chin, arresting bedside manner and other stereotypical attributes. Jen is ready to trample the ever-growing pile of prostrate patients in order to surrender herself utterly to him, but whenever she gets the chance, he’s winched up into the air by helicopter, to attend yet another medical emergency! It’s a prescription for disaster.

Regeneration by Pat Barker (the first of a trilogy). Book description: Regeneration, one in Pat Barker’s series of novels confronting the psychological effects of World War I, focuses on treatment methods during the war and the story of a decorated English officer sent to a military hospital after publicly declaring he will no longer fight. Yet the novel is much more. Written in sparse prose that is shockingly clear—the descriptions of electronic treatments are particularly harrowing—it combines real-life characters and events with fictional ones in a work that examines the insanity of war like no other. Barker also weaves in issues of class and politics in this compactly powerful book. Other books in the series include The Eye in the Door and the Booker Award winner The Ghost Road.

Let me know your favorite novels about doctors!

What to Read While Hunkering Down at Home

IShirley MacLaine “hunkering down” (?) with T.S. Eliot

“I don’t mind the cold. It’s the light I miss.”

I say that every year. I have a partial solution: you feel happier if you use twice as much electricity, i.e., turning on every lamp in the house and using the brightest light bulbs you can find. (And that’s why we need wind energy: 36 percent of ours is powered by wind turbines.)

We had our first snow last week, and the nights are getting darker earlier. We have been “hunkering down” at home (as Dr. Fauci and other infectious disease experts suggest) and getting a lot of reading done (which is my interpretation of “hunkering down”).

If you’re tired of hunkering–and there has certainly been a lot of it this year–I know two remarkable books to make the time go faster. This is also a perfect way to catch up on my book entries, which have been fewer lately.

1 Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread, by Michiko Kakutani. This entertaining book would make a great Christmas gift, or in this case, a hunkering-down gift for bibliophiles. You may remember Kakutani as a daily book critic at The New York Times, whose gracefully-written, incisive, tough reviews could make or break a book. She shows a softer side of herself in these enthusiastic short essays about the books she loves. You will madly write down all the books you want to read e or reread.

And so I cannot wait to read Saul Bellow (the only book I’ve read by him was the The Dean’s December, and I dismissed him on the basis of that), the historian Daniel Boorstin’s 1962 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America ( he wote “that images were supplanting ideals [and] the idea of ‘credibility’ was replacing the idea of truth”), Underworld by the great Don De Lillo, Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, The Letters of Gustave Flaubert, and so many more.

2 The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles. This irresistible meta-Victorian novel is a classic, which I did not realize it when I first read it after seeing the movie with Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep. Perhaps I did not recognize its perfection because I read so much in those days that great books blended into each other. One day it was Trollope, the next Elizabeth Bowen, the next Caesar’s Commentaries, and I sometimes blundered when I came upon excellent new books that would prove to be classics. It takes time and comparison to know.

Fowles’s imitation of a Victorian novel centers on Charles, a 32-year-old gentleman, amateur geologist, and Darwinist who is engaged to marry a merchant’s daughter, Ernestina, who is as witty as a character in a George Meredith novel. Unfortunately, Charles begins to doubt his decision when he falls for a mysterious red-haired woman, Sarah Woodruff, who walks along the beaches and cliffs of Lyme every day. . Reputed to have been engaged to–and sexually active with–a French officer who deserted her, Sarah is bolder than women of Charles’s class. And she actively pursues him.

But there is so much more than plot, character, and sex to this novel. Fowles interweaves details about Victorian life and history into the narrative, sometimes in fascinating footnotes, other times in interruptions by an omniscient narrator who comments on the action and sometimes offers alternate versions of an incident.

As a Victorian novel, it is simply stunning. As twentieth-century fiction, it is doubly brilliant. Even if you do not care for meta-fiction, this book will ensnare you and keep you reading. Loved it!

’90 North” by Randall Jarrell

Randall Jarrell

After finishing Randall Jarrell’s satiric novel, Pictures from an Institution, I decided to read some of his poetry. I enjoyed and admired the following much-anthologized poem, “90 North.”

“90 North”

At home, in my flannel gown, like a bear to its floe,
I clambered to bed; up the globe’s impossible sides
I sailed all night—till at last, with my black beard,
My furs and my dogs, I stood at the northern pole.

There in the childish night my companions lay frozen,
The stiff furs knocked at my starveling throat,
And I gave my great sigh: the flakes came huddling,
Were they really my end? In the darkness I turned to my rest.

—Here, the flag snaps in the glare and silence
Of the unbroken ice. I stand here,
The dogs bark, my beard is black, and I stare
At the North Pole . . .
                                        And now what? Why, go back.

Turn as I please, my step is to the south.
The world—my world spins on this final point
Of cold and wretchedness: all lines, all winds
End in this whirlpool I at last discover.

And it is meaningless. In the child’s bed
After the night’s voyage, in that warm world
Where people work and suffer for the end
That crowns the pain—in that Cloud-Cuckoo-Land

I reached my North and it had meaning.
Here at the actual pole of my existence,
Where all that I have done is meaningless,
Where I die or live by accident alone—

Where, living or dying, I am still alone;
Here where North, the night, the berg of death
Crowd me out of the ignorant darkness,
I see at last that all the knowledge
 
I wrung from the darkness—that the darkness flung me—
Is worthless as ignorance: nothing comes from nothing,
The darkness from the darkness. Pain comes from the darkness 
And we call it wisdom. It is pain.

Pondering Randall Jarrell’s “Pictures from an Institution”

Jottings on Randall Jarrell’s “Pictures from an Institution”


I am loving Randall Jarrell’s Pictures from an Institution, a comic novel set at Benton College, which is based loosely on Sarah Lawrence College, a progressive college where Jarrell briefly taught. In this rare video, I speak of my impressions of the book.

Here is a little background: Pictures from an Institution is partly a roman à clef, featuring such celebrities as Mary McCarthy, who, in Pictures, is portrayed as Gertrude, a creative writing teacher who turns all experiences into biting satiric novels. Indeed, McCarthy’s brilliant The Groves of Academe, a hilarious satire of Sarah Lawrence College, was published in 1952, two years before Jarrell’s. Was there some rivalry between the two writers?

Worth reading for all who love satires!

Why We Dread the Election

A few weeks ago my husband sat down for breakfast and told me the latest gloomy bullshit. “Trump might not leave if Biden wins.”

“Where did you hear THAT?”

It was in one or perhaps a dozen of our nation’s venerable newspapers.

Naturally, we were appalled, and we voted for Biden as soon we received our ballots in the mail. We would have voted for him as soon as the ballots came anyway. But I slowly realized the hysteria about Trump’s not leaving office is probably bullshit. He may have said it in a tweet–that’s what I heard–but who in her right mind is on Twitter these days? And on Twitter it’s one thing today, another the next. I could get behind a law that forbids tweeting, period. It is one of the most hysterical super-spreader media of all time.

The truth is, there is a lot of bullshit before a presidential election. Not just before an election–for years before an election. The polls said Howard Dean would be a shoo-in in 2004. No, he did poorly at caucuses and primaries. We all thought Hillary would win in 2016. I had reservations about the candidacy of the always-unpopular Hillary, but I am hardly a pundit. Guess what? Hillary didn’t win.

When the whole rat race for the 2020 nomination began (two years ago?), journalists had many favorites. They loved Sherrod Brown, an experienced, pro-Labor, progressive, and yet not radical senator. Since he has a degree in Russian Studies (which probably includes literature), I would have voted for him! And surely he would have gone to a humanities festival and participated in a reading of the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation of War and Peace. (Such marathon readings are popular, and support the humanities.)

Biden, too, has a liberal arts background. He has a B.A. from the University of Delaware (not too fancy, so I can relate), with a double major in history and political science, and a minor in English. Then he went to law school–which so many of them do. But forget that. Let’s concentrate on the liberal arts!

We do not know the future. Really, we do not. Get the vote out, then worry.

And skip the more hysterical editorials that will reduce you to tears and may or may not be based in reality.

The bottom line: Vote!

Read the editorials after the election!

Meanwhile, carpe diem!

We Will Wear You Out with Our New Positivity (and Emojis)

Gentrification of the fridge

The new me is unrecognizable. One note from the doctor, and I whirl the chi into balance. Exercise is now my favorite activity: It’s out of the shower and into the streets for a brisk walk. (Does getting up at noon take the virtue out of it?) When I tell you I ate oatmeal for breakfast, you will fall off your chair. “Amazing, Kat!” And the unbelievers will sneer, “Her? I don’t believe it.”

Believe it, people. I’m on a new health regimen. I do not eat pop tarts anymore. You are going to miss my negative self very, very soon. We all will when I eat kale for dinner tonight. Kale and couscous–I wonder if I CAN eat such a combo. And you will not like my tote bag with happy faces on it, either. It was ironic, but now I have to use it. And I may join Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club. Why not? The books may have positive messages. But first I will dash off a note to her publicist, “Who came up with that witless name?”

I will not write that note, of course, because it will disturb my chi, or is it qi? Besides, it is time to meditate. Which I do in corpse pose, because it is more relaxing than sitting cross-legged.

Then I exercised for another hour. You know why? I couldn’t face plain yogurt with fruit for lunch. I have no doubt it will make me a better person, because how could sugarless food not bring me joy? At least yogurt is dairy: that’s one up over kale.

Dave figured out if he added green food coloring to his milkshakes everyone just presumed he was drinking a kale smoothie.

And, here’s the best thing of all about my new positivity: I became a responsible citizen of the United States when I VOTED EARLY! We sat down and filled in the bubbles on the ballot. Wow, a lot more candidates for president than we thought. We went with the traditional Democrats, Biden-Harris. No , not the Green Party candidate… no writing in of Bernie–just a prayer to the gods to get the pandemic under control, and then everything else may follow.

And now I must read something irreverent by Mary McCarthy. Because, you know, I’m human, and though I do plan on being SOOOOOO healthy, I need to read literature. Later I plan to discover the best healthy junk food. It is not sugarless Swiss Miss! I already tried.

Namaste.

And positive emojis:

🙂😇🍏🚲

On Wellness, High-Tech Thermometers, & “War and Peace”

I went to the clinic to get a prescription renewed. In the lobby, I filled out a form attesting to the absence of cornonavirus symptoms. “Have you had contact with anyone with Covid in the last two weeks?” No. Then the tech tried to get a temperature reading on me. I did not respond to the thermometer gun aimed at my head. She tried three different thermometers. BLAP! BLAP! BLAP!

From CBNC

“Perhaps I do not exist,” I said brightly. A scowl in return. She did not know I was joking. You can’t get past the foyer unless you have a normal temperature. They waved me in with no temperature, though. I thought of Twilight and Interview with a Vampire.

Anyway, I got in. Fabulous! What fun. ALL the blood work is bad. Thank you, pandemic, for keeping me inside for most of seven months so I don’t get Covid but get generally run-down. All the numbers went up, even my blood pressure, which used to be low, and now is normal. That can’t be good! I faithfully promised to exercise…long Emily Bronte-style walk on the moors–and took an exhausting bike ride with my husband the same day to get all the numbers down, down, down. If I biked like that very day, I would be healthy…but asleep by 8 o’clock.

AND NOW FOR A WAR AND PEACE QUIZ.

War and Peace is my favorite novel, even more brilliant than Villette, my other favorite. But the other day I came across a W&P character list and name pronunciation guide, and learned, by God, that I have mispronounced the names of my two favorite 19th-century Russian families for years.

Who wouldn’t love to live with the charming Rostovs? I especially like the company of Nicholas and Natasha. Rostov is pronounced Ros-TOV, not ROS-tov, which sounds better to me. And I adore Pierre Bezhukov, but it is Bezh-U-kov, not BEZH-u-kov.

The Maudes (my favorite translators of Tolstoy) would be disappointed in me. Louise and Aylmer Maude were meticulous translators, knew Tolstoy, and it is their character and pronunciation list. But I’ll always call these characters the ROS-tovs and the BEZH-u-kovs. We have our linguistic biases. I once knew a Spanish family who called their cat Gatsby “Gots-by.” The same thing.

And now…

Stay well!

Namaste!

“Can You Make Me a Cup of Tea?” & Lady Chatterley’s Lover

10th November 1960: Two women in London, with copies of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, after a jury decided that it was not obscene.

I have never been more exhausted. The pandemic has aged me ten years in seven months.

At least that’s how it seems.

I do not dwell on my looks. I am talking about vitality in everyday life. No wonder. The country is falling apart.

“Could you make me a cup of tea?” I wheedle my husband. I used to make my own tea. Now I collapse on the divan with a pile of books, practically a small library. Tonight my choices are an Arnold Bennett, Jean Stafford’s The Catherine Wheel (one of my favorites), a novella by Anita Desai, and The Virago Book of Ghost Stories. My husband charmingly brings me a cup of what we call “purple tea.” The tea comes in a purple package.

Tea and reading help. I have been reading, of all things, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I never thought this was one of Lawrence’s better novels, but after The Plumed Serpent and Kangaroo, it is a masterpiece.

This is not Lawrence’s best novel but it is his most famous, banned for obscenity from 1928 until 1960. People read it nowadays as a curiosity rather than as literature. Although there is little in Lady Chatterley that a modern reader, or particularly a cable TV watcher would find pornographic, there are several sex scenes, and some are more explicit than I’d remembered. Lawrence wrote three completely different versions of the book, and I wonder if I read an earlier version before. I am inclined to think I did. I remembered his referring to genitals in terms of ‘”John Thomas” and “Lady Jane,” but did not recall his use of more explicit language.

Lawrence begins this controversial novel:

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future

The situation is tragic: Lawrence writes elegantly of the heroine Connie’s marriage to Clifford Chatterley, who returns from the war a paraplegic; their non-sexual marriage; and her desire for a child.

The plot is simple, but the prose is sharp and unflinching, and the characters are vibrantly alive. After the war, Connie and Clifford live at Wragford Hall. Clifford becomes a writer of what Connie’s father calls “dead books.” Connie is responsible for the care of Clifford, and becomes run-down. Her sister Hilda tells Clifford he must hire a nurse to relieve Connie.

Until the nurse is hired, we were not aware of all the physical tasks Connie has done for Clifford. Finally, she is free to do what she likes, and spends hours walking in the woods, appreciating nature. She and Mellors, the taciturn gamekeeper, embark on an affair, only it is more than that. Their intense relationship leads to an unusual sexual, intellectual, and spiritual rapport.

Like Rupert in Women in Love, Mellors lectures on the dead mechanical society, and the subjection of men to industrial culture. He also talks about sex: he tells Connie she is the only woman he knows capable of a “real” orgasm, rather than clitoral (though he does not use that word). She ignores this, focusing on their love, while Mellors darkly predicts that the human race will destroy itself after depleting the planet’s resources. (Is he right?) Connie keeps him balanced, thinking that much of what he says is unimportant to the future of their own relationship.

Lawrence loves his characters to discuss ideology and philosophy. Some of it is fascinating, some a bit tiring if you know his other books. But the first half of Lady Chatterley’s Lover is brilliant. Perhaps all that rewriting tired him out.