“Why should not an impulse be wise, or wisdom become impulsive?”
D.H. Lawrence, An Unprofessional Study – Anaïs Nin
I admit that I had some small issues with Anaïs Nin’s diaries. But I was curious, as we shared a similar dispositions, by which I mean, an admiration of D.H.Lawrence. I was curious to read her writing, as opposed to her diary which can be something like having to listen to someone’s dreams: potentially tedious. Even though I realize that in her case her writing was famously her diary – especially as she seemed to enjoy having many people read them, color coded as they were, ad nauseum – but never mind that. On an impulse I requested D.H. Lawrence, An Unprofessional Study from my library, and it is a wonderful little book.
“One can save one’s pennies. How can one save one’s soul? One can only live one’s soul. The business is to live, really live. And this needs wonder.” D.H. Lawrence, quoted in D.H. Lawrence An Unprofessional Study
Nin articulates with perfect clarity why Lawrence was a unique and wonderful writer. What I love about his writing is what she loves about his writing and it is a lot of fun to have her take us through the workings of her mind through his….that’s a fancy bit of circumlocution perhaps, but I think it gets to why we not only love to read, but also like to talk about what we read. We press against the intimate reader/writer -nature of reading and, forgive me, enjoy a ménage á trios of communication and communion.
Lawrence realized the tragedy of inequality in love as no one else ever realized it. And with it he realized the tragedy not alone of physical but of spiritual and mental love which is the cause of torment in human relationships.
Nin describes Lawrence’s tendency to have his characters veering from one extreme to another as poetically heightening their sensibility. She, like I, while reading Woman in Love, asks at one point, “Do people really swing from one extreme of emotion to another in so short a span? We know poets do.” As Nin saw it, Lawrence wrote with the mind of a poet – It’s a beautiful answer. Another recurrence of Lawrence’s that always makes me giggle is the word “loin” which, I was delighted to find, is brought under Nin’s critique as well. Here she suggests that perhaps he got it a little wrong: describing him as a writer who writes in a painterly way,
“This is also the cause for some phrases which have appeared ridiculous. Men and women in his books are conscious of each other’s loins and hips….a familiar feeling to painters and sculptors, and in reality quite true, though as yet awkwardly expressed.”
I can honestly affirm that it is quite awkward to giggle every time one reads the word loin.
One does not want to unnecessarily conjure up an image of a butcher shop (which is what “loin” makes me think of) at heated moments in a story. At least I don’t. But, with an effort one does get back on the page.
“I won’t have popular lies.” Lawrence quoted…
And the “popular” is the denial, because, yes, there is the sex. Here Nin really expresses the beauty and quality of Lawrence. Where many people would dismiss his writing (and hers for that matter) as merely pornographic, (and in this day and age- dated at that) she makes the rather wonderful and simple argument, “Lawrence never tired of warning us that ‘the affinity of mind and personality is an excellent basis of friendship between the sexes, but a disastrous basis for marriage.’ Why? Because it often constitutes a denial of the deeper needs of our nature….” And then on the specific use of “obscene words,” she continues, “His war was against evasive, reticent language, which makes for evasive, reticent living and thinking.”
I find many modern writers have taken this idea and reduced it to the opposite effect; the crassness of certain language used for pure shock value and projected “cool.” Clearly, it’s a fine line, but substance matters.
This unprofessional study is a quick but excellent read, not only for people who enjoy D.H. Lawrence, but for people who enjoy reading, as well as the philosophy of reading.
“Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” D.H. Lawrence An Unprofessional Study – Anaïs Nin