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Post 9 – Most overrated book

As ever, thanks to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge.

My initial instinct was to groan about the Fifty Shades Trilogy or The Alchemist. Then I thought about it for a few minutes and remembered the book that left me feeling about as disappointed as Margery Tyrell on her wedding night to Renly Baratheon.

Allow me to present the one, the only, the (in my opinion) overrated Lady Chatterley’s Lover. And my issue with it is not just the sex scenes. In fact, my issue is more with the author than the text…

OK, so my main issue Lawrence is his rather Nazi view of what should be done to those weaker and worse off than him. In a letter, written in 1908 to Blanche Jennings, he said:

“If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I’d go out in the back streets and main streets and bring them in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the “Hallelujah Chorus””

Whilst I know that one’s judgement of a piece of literature should not be coloured by one’s opinion of its author’s political ideology but that quote has somewhat coloured my opinion of him and, by extension, his work. The thing is that in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lawrence’s ideology does influence the text. He mocks and disparages those characters that he dislikes including Clifford, who belongs to ‘the maimed’, whom he wanted to dispose of earlier. As such, I feel vindicated in allowing my judgement of his ideology to colour my reading of the text.

If you catch my drift?

My second reason for finding this book over-rated is what some might refer to as “the inherent sexism of the text”. Whilst it has been called into question over recent years because of this letter, there are parts that still make me feel uncomfortable. Much in the same way that Blurred Lines makes me feel uncomfortable even though Robin Thicke has repeatedly stated that he believes that it’s ‘a feminist movement within itself‘.

If there hadn’t been so much furore surrounding the novel and the eventual ‘obscenity trial’, that further raised its profile, I do wonder if less people would know about it now and if it would have been excluded from a couple- not all, but one or two- ‘books you have to read before you die’ lists.

What do you think?

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{Review} Memoirs of Fanny Hill or A Lady of Pleasure – John Cleland

Erotica has never been ‘my shelf’ in the library, with the one exception of a short story by Neil Gaiman in Smoke and Mirrors, even Lady Chatterley’s Lover made me flinch. This should become apparent fairly quickly in the review. All I can say is that I can’t help but be ‘English’. 

Why did I choose Fanny Hill to read? Because I never say no to a free book (thank you, Project Guternberg!) Also, I wanted to read a book for European Reading Challenge

Blurb (From Goodreads) 
From her position of wealth and happy respectability, Fanny Hill looks back at her early life and disreputable adventures. Arriving in London alone, poor and innocent, she falls into the hands of a brothel-keeper. But only when she is separated from the man she loves does she enrol in the ‘unhappy profession’ of prostitution. Fanny becomes a kept woman and also works in an elegant bawdy-house, entertaining polite voluptuaries. By the age of eighteen, she can afford to retire; in her marriage she can at last combine sexual passion with romantic love.
Fanny Hill, shrouded in controversy for most of its more than 250-year life, & banned from publication in the U.S. until 1966, was once considered immoral & without literary merit, even earning its author a jail sentence for obscenity.

The tale of a naïve young prostitute in bawdy eighteenth-century London who slowly rises to respectability, the novel & its popularity endured many bannings & critics, & today Fanny Hill is considered an important piece of political parody & sexual philosophy on par with French libertine novels

Review
The language was, for the most part, beautiful and varied – I learnt three new words from it! Fanny’s voice and narration were mostly perfectly pitched, although like most heroines, she is a tiny bit silly. Several parts of the narrative were eye-wateringly painful with virtuous women instantly becoming uncontrollably lustful at the sight of a turgid male member and one bloody instance involving an over-large… part.

It is an interesting read from an historian’s point of view as the main ‘plot’ of Fanny’s love, separation from him etc. is obviously just whacked in there in an attempt to stay on the less salacious side of ‘indecency’ (rather like the music included in most of the videos on MTV channels nowadays).

The conflict between vivid descriptions of homosexual acts between men and the condemnation of the afore-mentioned scenes is also interesting, especially as scenes of a Sapphic nature don’t seem to have drawn the same level of censure from the author.

Overall
Whilst I doubt that erotica will ever be a favourite genre, this novel is very well written and I shall certainly re-read it at some point over the next few years.

Wild Night In’s Verdict? Wavering towards… win!

 

  If anyone knows of any books written about homosexuality in pre-Victorian England, do please post the titles as this is a subject I would like to learn more about.

 

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