Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Try A Little Tenderness: Why I Had To Listen To Otis Redding Right After Reading "Lady Chatterley's Lover"

Lady Chatterley's LoverLady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm kind of mixed up about what I want to say about this novel, which is a good thing.  Of course it's best-known for being a scandalous, banned novel for its sex scenes, and I suppose for 1928, this was rather racy.  I read the modern restored version and by today's standards, some scenes and language are graphic, but not pornographic or even titillating, just sensual, and respectfully so. (And even quaintly goofy - Lady Chatterley's private parts are oft described as her "mound of Venus.")  Lawrence actually believes sex and sexual desire aren't purulent or shameful, but the highest expression of life and living.  He also is decidedly disgusted by technology (in 1928, coal mines, deforestation, the Industrial Revolution and its ramifications were his chief complaints) and people who chase money, status, success and celebrity.  In that way, the novel is both classic and contemporary.  Though there are parts of the book that can be repetitive - not with the love plot, but with Lawrence expounding his philosophies via the characters' thoughts or his descriptions of his characters - his way with words and phrases make the journey through it all worth it.  And once the love affair commences, it's all extremely engaging and absorbing, because you can't help but root for this impossible love affair to become possible - for real life to bloom and for the rest of the man-made madness and societal restrictions to fall away in the face of true tenderness between men and women (hence, the Otis Redding reference in the title).  And it's romantic because it's not sentimental - this book is hard and the characters are very aware of the realities they face and the sacrifices they'll have to make to even start to make a go of it.  The machine of civilization will go on but humanity will survive it if there is love.  Even though there are some racist bits in there that do date it (I could put these down to the characters instead of the author but I'm sure that would be charity on my part) I highly recommend it - because they don't mar the core thoughts and ideas expressed here.  All in all, good stuff.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lite Pop: Reviewing "Teen Classic" "Forever..."

ForeverForever by Judy Blume
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Even though I read and enjoyed many of Judy Blume's other books when I was a kid, I never read "Forever," so I thought I'd check it out and fill in that hole (no pun intended, but you see how I left it there anyway).  I'm glad I didn't read it as a teenager because I'd hate to think that I would have been influenced by it. I'd always heard what a mature book it was and how it was all about a girl's first time and was so explicit.  Okay, some of the sex descriptions are specific, but I wouldn't call them graphic or even titillating.  The girl and boy in question are so gosh gee that there is a lack of realism permeating on every page that portends to have some.  There is no plot to speak of, and all of the supporting characters are types - meant to have depth (the suicidal boy, the stroke victim grandpa, the know-it-all best friend, the gifted younger sister, etc.) - but don't.  When the lead girl takes a self-motivated trip to Planned Parenthood, the author's PSA is glaring.  I see on IMDB there was a TV movie made of it in 1978, and I suppose for that time, the subject matter itself was controversy enough to warrant adaptation.  But it's not a timeless story, and even as a story of its time, it suffers from banality on most accounts. I suppose it deserves some snaps for even tackling the subject at a time when a lot of youth fiction, especially by popular authors didn't... thus two stars instead of one.  Oh, and it was also upgraded by me for one memorable exchange between the main character Katherine and a random uncle at her high-school graduation that showed real depth and promise:

The uncle picked something out of his teeth, examined it, then flicked it off his finger. "So tell me," he said. "What do you want to do with your life?"
"Do?" I repeated.
"Yes... you've thought about it, haven't you?"
"I want to be happy," I told him.  "And make other people happy too."
"Very nice... but not enough."
"That's all I know right now." I turned and walked away from him.

If only the whole book had been as wry and observant as that!  But alas, it wasn't.  So I've got to find something better to hand my daughter when the time comes - I've just got to.

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