The great writer I can’t stand is D.H. Lawrence. I should qualify that: I love Lawrence’s lyric poetry. If only he’d never ventured into fiction. Clumping, pompous, sentimental, entirely without a sense of humour — a very bad thing in any writer, a sign of being false to the world — and terribly repetitive. And as for all that guff about ‘the untamed Pan’! I can’t get through more than a couple of pages without wanting to dig him up and — as Mark Twain unimprovably put it of Jane Austen — beat him over the skull with his own shinbone.
Here’s a sentence cut and pasted, honestly at random, from St Mawr (his famous novella about an erection inadequately disguised as a horse): ‘Lou, who had strayed into the yard to see, looked so much younger and so many thousand of years older than her mother, as she stood in her wisp-like diffidence, the clusters of grape-like bobbed hair hanging beside her face, with its fresh colouring and its ancient weariness, her slightly squinting eyes, that were so disillusioned they were becoming faunlike.’
That’s not a sentence so much as a series of extra clauses tacked onto the arse of a declaration, isn’t it? And what is he getting at with the ‘grape-like hair’? Do eyes get disillusioned? And how do they start to resemble fauns when they do so: does the upper eyelid resemble a man and the lower lid a goat’s bum? No. It’s just bollocks.
Sam Leith’s contribution to ‘The Greats We Hate‘ in The Spectator which I found myself nodding at vigorously. I’ve struggled with Lawrence for years and reading The Fox earlier in the year was the nail in this particular reading coffin. I live in hope of growing to like certain authors, I accept I have picked the wrong book for some or approached them at the wrong time in my life. A few, like Lawrence, I have to concede will remain forever alien to me and baffling in their popularity.
EDIT: I’ve just posted my review of The Fox – it’s been languishing in drafts since May!