The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence, Part 1, a 2 day delay somewhat explained.

I meant to post just a day late. Yesterday. Considering that Thursday was Thanksgiving, I figured y’all would forgive me.

But there was a bar involved. Someone’s birthday party. Shots containing Red Bull. Partying like it was 1999 (this fits, because we were actually at the bar we spent New Year’s Eve 1999/2000 at, even though we did not in fact party like we did on the actual New Year’s Eve). Denny’s. Coffee. And then a small road trip today that had nothing to do with the party/bar/figurative 1999 partying. Anyway, that’s where the extra day went and I apologize.

I’m going to talk about the first part of The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence. I say first part because I did not finish it yet. It’s a dense book, as I remember Sons and Lovers being. I can’t tell you whose favorite book it was (but Dave, I only have 4 boxes of books left! Next week I will tell everyone who loved The Rainbow!).

So far, I am actually really liking The Rainbow. I read Sons and Lovers in college and didn’t really enjoy it so I chose The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence with a slight amount of trepidation. But, either I have matured enough to enjoy Lawrence’s writing, or Rainbow is just a better book overall.

I’m going to go into list format again I think, just because I like it.

1. I can see why some people accuse D.H. Lawrence of being “dirty”. The first three pages of The Rainbow are merely describing the land that this family lives on and the description of the land is sexier than any description of a hero or heroine in a romance novel that I’ve ever read.

“The women were different. On them too was the drowse of blood-intimacy, calves sucking and hens running together in droves, and young geese palpitating in the hand while the food was pushed down their throttle. But the women looked out from the heated, blind intercourse of farm-life, to the spoken world beyond.”
“It was enough for the men, that the earth heaved and opened its furrows to them, that the wind blew to dry the wet wheat, and set the young ears of corn wheeling freshly round about;….so much exchange and interchange they had with these, that they lived full and surcharged, their senses full fed, their faces always turned to the heat of the blood, staring into the sun, dazed with looking towards the source of generation, unable to turn round.”

2. So far the story is about a man, who is the youngest of the current generation of the Brangwens, who grows up and inherits the property through process of elimination. And even though he is in his mid 20s he mopes and whinges about a bit like a teenager. His first experience with sex is with a prostitute and his inability to reconcile sex with a prostitute and what a woman he would want to wed in his mind causes him to go into blind drunks. Until a Polish immigrant woman moves into the area with her young daughter.

3. Then the story switches to the young daughter, Anna, even though Tom Brangwen and his Polish wife have two of their own children. She gets older. And at 17 falls in love with another Brangwen, Tom’s nephew.

4. Lawrence perfectly captured the almost indifference or inattention that some married couples fall into.
“You do not want to be with me any more,’ she said. It startled him. How did she know this truth? He thought it was his secret. “Yi,” he said. “You want to find something else,’ she said. He did not answer. “Did he?” he asked himself. “You should not want so much attention,’ she said. ‘You are not a baby.’ “I’m not grumbling,”he said. Yet he knew he was. “You think you have not enough,” she said. “How enough” “You think you have not enough in me. But how do you know me? What do you do to make me love you?”. He was flabbergasted. “I never said I hadn’t enough in you,” he replied. “I didn’t know you wanted making to love me. What do you want?” “You don’t make it good between us any more, you are not interested. You do not make me want you.” “And you don’t make me want you, do you now?” There was a silence. They were such strangers. “Would you like to have another woman?” she asked. His eyes grew round, he did not know where he was. How could she, his own wife, say such a thing? But she sat there, small and foreign and separate. It dawned upon him she did not consider herself his wife, except in so far as they agreed. She did not feel she had married him. At any rate, she was willing to allow he might want another woman. A gap, a space opened before him.”

5. He does young love really well too, one of the “steamiest” first kisses I’ve read in a long time, between Anna and her “beloved” Brangwen.
“She set her sheaves against the shock. He saw her hands glisten among the spray of grain. And he dropped his sheaves and he trembled as he took her in his arms. He had overtaken her, and it was his privilege, to kiss her. She was sweet and fresh with the night air, and sweet with the scent of train. And the whole rhythm of him beat into his kisses, and still he pursued her, in his kisses, and still she was not quite overcome. He wondered over the moonlight on her nose! All the moonlight upon her, all the darkness within her! All the night in his arms, darkness and shine, he possessed of it all! All the night for him now, to unfold, to venture within, all the mystery to be entered, all the discovery to be made. Trembling with keen triumph, his heart was white as a star as he drove his kisses nearer. “My love!” she called, in a low voice from afar. The low sound seemed to call to him from far off, under the moon, to him who was unaware. He stopped, quivered, and listened. “My love,” came again the low, plaintive call, like a bird unseen in the night. He was afraid. HIs heart quivered and broke. He was stopped. “Anna,” he said, as if he answered her from a distance, unsure. “My love.” And he drew near, and she drew near. “Anna,” he said, in wonder and birth pain of love. “My love,” she said, her voice growing rapturous. And they kissed on the mouth, in rapture and suprise, long, real kisses. The kiss lasted, there among the moonlight. He kissed her again, and she kissed him. And again they were kissing together. Till something happened in him, he was strange. He wanted her. He wanted her exceedingly. She was something new. They stood there folded, suspended in the night. And his whole being quivered with suprise, as from a blow. He wanted her, and he wanted to tell her so. But the shock was too great to him. He had never realized before. He trembled with irritation and unusedness, he did not know what to do. He held her more gently, gently, much more gently. The conflict was gone by. And he was glad, and breathless, and almost in tears. But he knew he wanted her. something fixed in him for ever. He was hers. And he was very glad and afraid. He did not know what to do, as they stood there in the open, moonlit field. He looked through her hair at the moon, which seemed to swim liquid bright.”

6. It seems almost like the Brangwen family is the main character of the book rather than any member or member(s). It allows Lawrence the luxury of skipping in between Brangwens to describe different events or to talk about that he might not have if the main character was either just Tom or just Anna or one of Tom’s other Brangwen relatives.

7. Stay tuned. Next week I’ll tell you what I thought of how it all ends up 🙂

8. Then two weeks after that, I’ll talk about Women in Love, the 2nd book about the Brangwen family.

9. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! And aren’t sick of leftovers yet!

10. Have a great rest of your weekend! 🙂

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

Well, last week Kim jumped away from the books on our list to do the new Stephen King book. I get to jump away too, right? She suggested I do Pearl by Tabitha King this week, since she was taking on one of Tabitha’s husband’s books the week before. However, though Pearl is on my list, I don’t have a copy yet. It’s on the way. Instead, I decided to revisit an old favorite: Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski.

Why not? Bukowski has been called the King of the Beats…even if he was really just a contemporary and didn’t have anything much to do with them. Also, he dated Linda King. Nothing to do with Stephen…but close enough, right?

Anyway, often regarded as Bukowski’s most successful prose work, Ham on Rye tracks the coming of age of Henry Chinaski through the desperation of Great Depression Los Angeles. (Well, okay…it’s really Bukowski. No one pretends otherwise. Bukowski tended to write highly autobiographical fiction.) And it’s not an easy life. It’s not an easy life for a lot of people at that time. Abusive father, disfiguring (to the point of permanent scarring) extreme acne, isolation, poverty, alcohol, prostitutes. It’s a low life.

To some extent, it’s the sort of thing that makes people wonder why I like Bukowski. He definitely behaved crudely at times, and I don’t emulate that. He tended to write plainly, and of depressing things. But, what I like about Bukowski is the quiet compassion underlying all of that. At least, apparently so. None of that may have been in Bukowski himself. He may have been a horrible man. However, there are moments in his writing where I could forgive almost anything:

Finally it was the day of the Senior Prom. It was held in the girls’ gym with live music, a real band. I don’t know why but I walked over that night, the two-and-one-half miles from my parents’ place. I stood outside in the dark and I looked in there, through the wire-covered window, and I was astonished. All the girls looked very grown-up, stately, lovely, they were in long dresses, and they all looked beautiful. I almost didn’t recognize them. And the boys in their tuxes, they looked great, they danced so straight, each of them holding a girl in his arms their faces pressed against the girl’s hair. They all danced beautifully and the music was loud and clear and good, powerful.

Then I caught a glimpse of my reflection staring in at them—boils and scars on my face, my ragged shirt. I was like some jungle animal drawn to the light and looking in. Why had I come? I felt sick. But I kept watching. The dance ended. There was a pause. Couples spoke easily to each other. It was natural and civilized. Where had they learned to converse and to dance? I couldn’t converse or dance. Everybody knew something I didn’t know. The girls looked so good, the boys so handsome. I would be too terrified to even look at one of those girls, let alone be close to one. To look into her eyes or dance with her would be beyond me.


Then there was a sound behind me.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

It was an old man with a flashlight. He had a head like a frog’s head.

“I’m watching the dance.”

He held the flashlight right up under his nose. His eyes were round and large, they gleamed like a cat’s eyes in the moonlight. But his mouth was shriveled, collapsed, and his head was round. It had a peculiar senseless roundness that reminded me of a pumpkin trying to play pundit.

“Get your ass out of here!”

Some people like Bukowski for the anger and the whores and the drinking and any of that. That’s all just background for me, personally. I like Bukowski for the tenderness under that, the tenderness despite that. Bukowski preferred isolation, from women and men both, but I think he was pulling for everyone more than some people imagine. That empathy for what every person goes through trying to be alive is what I like most about Bukowski, and what I love about Ham on Rye.

Something a little different

I guess it could be a couple of somethings a little different today.

1. This is a day late. That’s due to my laptop refusing to type (as detailed here) and Greg having disconnected his computer to fix my mom’s computer. I debated trying to do the blog from my phone but knew I’d quickly lose patience.

2. I’m going off of our normal guided tour through the Top Ten.

3. This is because Stephen King has released a new book. For those of you fairly new here, see here and here to see why this might be a time where I wanted to go off script.

4. Yes, this all means that I will be talking about Revival, released November 11th, 2014.

5. Yes, I did in fact read the entire thing by yesterday, November 13th. I started November 12th. While I am not Dave (who can read over 300 books in a year), I can be fast when the mood strikes.

6. For those of you that are “old school” Stephen King fans, definitely check this one out. The entire book has a sense of creepiness to it. Even when the story is being positive, or benign or sentimental, you just have this feeling that _something_ is about to happen. And while some of you may scoff and say that “of course you would think that, it’s a Stephen King novel”, that’s just simply not true of all of his books these last four years. Of course being books, something does indeed happen in every novel. But, that something isn’t always horror. This is horror. It’s probably partly to do with parts of the very first 2 pages of the book.

“But sometimes a person who fits none of these categories comes into your life. This is the joker who pops out of the deck at odd intervals over the years, often during a moment of crisis. In the movies this sort of character is known as the fifth business, or the change agent. When he turns up in a film, you know he’s there because the screenwriter put him there. But who is screenwriting our lives? Fate or coincidence? I want to believe it’s the latter. I want that with all my heart and soul. When I think of Charles Jacobs-my fifth business, my change agent, my nemesis-I can’t bear to believe his presence in my life had anything to do with fate. It would mean that all these terrible things–these horrors-were meant to happen. If that is so, then there is no such thing as light and our belief in it is a follish illusion. IF that is so, we live in darkness like animals in a burrow, or ants deep in their hill.
And not alone”.

Then when the main character, Jamie, first meets Charles Jacobs, at the age of five;
“Plenty going on, but at that moment everything seemed to fall still. I know it’s only the sort of illusion caused by a faulty memory (not to mention a suitcase loaded with dark associations), but the recollection is very strong. All of a sudden there were no kids yelling in the backyard, no records playing upstairs, no banging from the garage. Not a single bird singing.”

The story starts out with Charles Jacobs as the new, very young (in his mid 20s) minister in town. He has a young wife and a young son. The whole congregation loves them, though the kids do become a little tired of Jacobs’ love of mixing a Bible lesson in with lessons on electricity, which are his obsession. Then tragedy strikes the family and he loses his faith. In a major way. In a sermon in the pulpit to his church way.

He leaves, and Jamie narrates his life in his teens, and the beginning of his career as a guitarist, not a phenomenal one, though a bit of a natural one. Then later in his life, when he is literally within touching distance of rock bottom, he runs into Jacobs again.

And then in his 50s, he becomes entwined with Jacobs once again.

For much of their lives, they do not interact. They are not in contact. And while there are parts of Jamie’s life that you might find strange are not more detailed in there, I also think that with tragedies we often have selective memories, or divorce feelings from that tragedy, which might be why Jamie thinks of his first girlfriend more than deaths in his life.

This is not a hopeful story. In fact, it’s pretty bleak. Oftentimes, King stories end on a positive note. This one ends on a slightly apathetic, dismal and foreboding note.

7. This is a future re-read already.

8. I love when Stephen King releases novels right around my birthday, because then it’s a sure thing I’ll get it.

9. My birthday was November 12th. Dave’s birthday is November 12th. We were fated to do this blog. Also, it ensures that there are two people that will always remember my birthday (I have another friend that shares my birthday. Unfortunately, he and Dave don’t know each other at all, which is sad, since that would be really weird, in a good way).

10. There is no ten, it just felt weird not to have a 10.

Enjoy your weekend! We are expecting snow tomorrow, 2.5 inches. Snowpacalypse. Oh wait. It’s Nebraska. Never mind.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus

I have to admit. This book took me quite awhile to read. But! Not because it was bad, or even boring, I just haven’t been reading much (I could tell you the long complicated whine about how I think my glasses need changed and that my corneal dystrophy is getting worse, but I won’t…I just pretty much did anyway ha!).

This book was perfect though for a long read. First, it is long to begin with (around 700 pages), but second there is so much to it. This is a book with stories within stories. The main character, Lucy, married a Civl War veteran who was 50 to her 15. He got home from the Civil War at 15, so obviously she was born during Reconstruction. Which is fitting, because in many ways, that’s what Lucy is doing in this book, reconstructing. She states that she is a veteran of a veteran, and because he told his stories so much she has them bred into her. She is currently 99 years old, and the book is first person narration, with her speaking to a person interviewing her, whom Gurganus never tells us what they are saying and we are left to put it together from Lucy’s words.

Lucy weaves a tale that starts over 30 years before she is born and ends in the 1980s when she is in a nursing home. The tales all tie together. The thing I loved about it, is Gurganus takes these somewhat disparate tales about these very different people in different times and weaves it into a cohesive and compelling picture of both history and of the “battleground” of marriage (which Lucy herself calls it). The voice of Lucy is authentic, and if you didn’t know the author, you would swear it was written by a woman, that’s how real what Lucy has to say about marriage and being a girl feels.

Gurganus also dispels some of the myths that 150 years later, we still like to tell to soothe our consciences, like that slaves mostly -liked- being slaves and that there were “good” masters that slaves felt indebted to and felt so attached to that they couldn’t leave them after the War. Willie Marsden, Lucy’s husband, is the son of a large plantation owner. His father has died, so it’s just his mother. She calls herself a good slave owner and the proof offered is that her husband instituted a policy of giving Sunday afternoons off to his slaves, that they give them crates of oranges at Christmas and that on the day Will’s father dies, his mother gives all the slaves the day off. She also likes to play some complicated game with the slave children and has given some of her jewelry to Castalia, a slave girl Will’s age. But Gurganus juxtaposes this with scenes that have Lady (that is her given name) telling a young girl (she’s 38) that one of the best beauty enhancements is to have two good looking black chests framing her face. He also shows how Lady requires a complicated hairdo and for her slaves to brush each section of her hair 200 times. How, in the past, some of the slaves relatives have been punished in a building where many of them die. Lucy takes us through a narrative from interviews she did at 11 about when the Marsden plantation was burned by Sherman and how the slaves reacted to their freedom. It shows them scared of it, but wanting it so badly, and shows how some of the slaves take no time to tell Lady exactly what they think of her. It shows how many of the freed slaves ended up in the service roles that made them appear to be loyal and wanting a Master, more through circumstance than desire.

Lucy takes us through her history and Will’s history and shows us the country’s history at the same time.

Gurganus is genius at creating characters. Each story within the main story could be set apart as a short story or evolved into a novel of its own, with no problem. None of the characters fit into the stereotype holes that society has evolved to describe slavery and the Civil War and Reconstruction and the Depression, the Wars et cetera. Some come close, like Lady as a plantation mistress, but none fit into the holes developed for them. Gurganus also shows us the complications of humans. A large majority of his characters are evolved, and don’t just act in the initial way he paints them.

I really loved this book. If you were a fan of Gone With the Wind, or Ken Follett’s sprawling historical fiction works, or really any historical fiction book spanning decades, you might find yourself loving this book too.

I liked it also because it was amazing as a slow read, but I could definitely have read it at a much quicker pace and not lost anything.

(Dave, will you please put in comments which author(s) listed this book? Greg has yet to help move a bookshelf to its correct place so all my books are still in boxes. ❤ you Greg 🙂 )

For those of you reading this participating in NaNoWriMo, good luck!!! (I'm not, but admire those of you that are!)