Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Virgin and the Gipsy

Aside from perhaps Women in Loveand Lady Chatterly, Lawrence's novels are just not worth the effort unless you're a big fan or a Literature grad student with a need to know the stuff. They're the very embodiment of "loose baggy monsters," with a wealth of potent thematic and symbolic material stewed in an artless and clumsy chowder.

His short fiction, however, is elegantly contstructed, often as sharp in form and structure as anything by Fitzgerald, especially when compared to Lawrence's clunky novels. The Virgin and the Gipsy, as a novella, stands between the two forms in length, but fortunately takes its lustre from the former as opposed to the latter. This is the sharpest delineation of Lawrence's ideas about blood and sex and class I've read, and one of the more entertaining. Young Yvette's mother hit the road with her lover, ditching her daughters and their uptight rector father when they were small children. Now coming into womanhood, they live in the rectory with a spinster aunt who needs an orgasm badly, their father, an uncle, and a ninety-something crone granny who represents the repressing curse of civilization. The father is one of Lawrence's favorite types: a guy completely befuddled by Woman and Nature and Desire, whose existence is all surface, who rejects as sordid the urges of the blood and heart. Yvette meets a Gipsy by chance and immediately her blood awakens to the falsity of "love" and "marriage" as understood by the Victorians (funny how Lawrence's plots, when boiled down, can sound so Harlequin Romance-y). This is a longer meditation on the riff Lawrence played in "The Horse-Dealer's Daughter," with many of the same symbols; the one variant, of course, is the interracial attraction. Read it.

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