Here we have five short stories by D. H. Lawrence which are included in an Audible audiobook collection. These stories should give me an opportunity to say something meaningful about the English author and poet D. H. Lawrence.
The first story, ‘The Rocking Horse Winner’, is an oedipal story about a mother and her ten year old son. They are discussing the subject of money. I make it a rule not to include spoilers in my reviews, but in this case I must. The boy asks his mother if their family is rich. The mother replies that, no, they are not rich. The mother, who came from more prosperous circumstances as a girl, tells the boy that his father is unlucky. In D. H. Lawrence stories, ‘unlucky’ is usually used as a euphemism for ‘weak and ineffectual’, especially when applied to husbands and fathers.
The boy promises his mother that he will always be lucky. To prove it he starts betting on the horses with the help of the gardener and the boy’s uncle. The boy wins every bet hr makes and soon has enough money to supplant his unlucky father as the family provider. But on the night of his last bet, the boy catches a fever and sadly dies.
My literary guru and guide, Martin Seymour-Smith, says that “D. H. Lawrence never resolved his Oedipal feelings for his mother and it may be that her lack of intellectual quality infected his entire life-style. “ Seymour-Smith’s appraisal of D. H. Lawrence is as follows:
“Much in his (Lawrence’s) writing is lovable and irresistible on any terms but his tiresomeness as a man also intrudes damagingly into it. He is full of insights, but as full of neurotic and unpleasant idiocies.”
He goes on to say that Lawrence “was ‘awful’ – and he was ‘marvelous’”. According to Seymour-Smith, Lawrence’s second novel, ‘Sons and Lovers’, is a masterpiece, but all of his other novels are “flawed by the sudden angry intrusion of opinion”. Thus I, following Seymour-Smith’s advice, have not read any of the other novels besides ‘Sons and Lovers’, not even ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. Seymour-Smith says that, besides ‘Sons and Lovers’, it is in some of the poems and short stories that Lawrence’s genius can best be found.
On to the second story, ‘England, My England’. Here is another story about a quite useless husband and father, apparently a common theme for Lawrence. This story takes place in the Midlands coal region of England called Nottinghamshire where Lawrence was born and raised. Since the father is prone to taking long hikes in the woods when according to his wife he should be working, there are some marvelous descriptions of scenery here.
In the third story which is one of Lawrence’s earliest stories written in 1909, ‘Odour of Chrysanthemums’, a young woman and mother waits for her husband to get home from the coal mine or the pub where he usually stops and stays after work. Again we have the lovely Midlands locale and once again there is a wretched husband and father, although he does work at the coal mine.
In the fourth story which is one of Lawrence’s last stories, ‘The Lovely Lady’, an old woman rules over the lives of her son and niece who live with her. This story does have elements of the supernatural although it turns out to be only a water pipe which carries sound from one part of the house to another.
The final long story, ‘Glad Ghosts’, is a true ghost story. Most of it takes place at a dinner party and it invokes the spiritualism which was so popular in the 1920s. It contains some of Lawrence’s perhaps more crackpot ideas about sex. Colonel Hale is visited by the ghost of his dead ex-wife. It turns out that the Colonel never paid attention or respect to her physically while she was alive, and thus she is haunting him. The Colonel finally figures this out and rectifies the situation. Meanwhile one of the male guests takes care of the Colonel’s young current wife, and the Lawrence-like narrator moves in on that guest’s young wife, Carlotta. All are happy at the end of the story.
In all of these stories, D. H. Lawrence displays a willingness to confront the complex psychological issues of his characters, both male and female. In too much of today’s fiction, we stay on the surface and do not come up against the problems that are embedded inside each of us from early childhood. Sometimes it seems we have reverted from the complexities of Freudian psychology back to the silly ‘Heroes and Villains’ mentality of Star Wars or Indiana Jones. Thus much of current fiction is too simplistic and lacking in depth. D. H. Lawrence, flat-out crazy as he can be, is a corrective to the simple-minded and vacuous attitudes of our times.