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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A nasty little story by D.H. Lawrence: Two Blue Birds

Notice that several of D.H. Lawrence's stories begin with a variant on this phrase: There was a man/woman who ... This little mantra is his own "once upon a time," and sometimes when he doesn't use this formula to begin a story he uses it as the title (The Woman Who Rode Away, e.g.). Last night read Two Blue Birds, which begins with, I think, There was a woman who loved her husband ... She does, but she doesn't - she can't live w/ him, he can't live w/ her, so they go their separate ways - the anathema, for DHL, of the complete romantic and sexual devotion, almost worship, that he holds as the ideal in relationships, married or not: this woman heads off to somewhere in the Southern hemisphere (I think) and has a flirtatious though she claims not adulterous relationship with an admirer, maybe several, this all well tolerated by husband, who stays in England and works hard at his business, doted on by a pretty, adoring secretary (these were days of dictation and transcription). Woman returns "home" for a spell - by this point the man has also brought in his secretary's mother and sister to a run a super-efficient household w/ him ensconced at the pinnacle. The wife realizes she obviously does not fit in. At one point she sneaks up on husband and secretary in the garden, he's dictating to her some sort of essay on the art of the novel (our first inkling that he's a writer and intellectual, not a businessman) - he's obviously a popular but insipid writer, the Rod McKuen of his era, perhaps, and exactly the sort DHL would despise; woman sees two blue birds fighting it out for territory on the ground at their feet (they are titmice, or two little tits, as DHL calls them, with his absolutely tin ear for colloquialisms, though this story shows at least a flash of humor - when the woman wishes there weren't so many names for flowers, she would call them things like that blue blob, that yellow smudge - something else DHL with his passion for botanic accuracy would despise). The woman then engages in a nasty little conversation w/ the secretary, during which she insults the secretary and belittles her husband - she'd always imagined that the secretary does all his actual writing for him, or so she says (obviously, she didn't imagine this - it's just a put-down of both). Secretary walks off tearfully angry, and husband and wife face off, with some sort of Britishism like "quite." (Note the obvious symbolism: wife and secretary both dressed in blue silk.) This is a nasty little story, and, for DHL, quite compact, really building just around the final scene and confrontation; it's one of his few looks, I think, at what marriage and relationships should never be - this woman is in a sense Lady Chatterly before she started hanging out in the woods.

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