Sons and Lovers and Me

I read two fluff books in a row so as penance I decided to read Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence. I’d never read Lawrence before. I was afraid of him. I thought his plots were too complex for me. I thought the language was too dense. Long, Joycean paragraphs without the benefit of a comma or period. But I think it’s important to gnaw on something outside of your comfort zone once in a while. It’s good for the aul’ grey matter.

Boy, was I wrong! This stuff is easily digestible. In fact, this book is closer to being cheap melodrama than it is inaccessible, high-minded literature. He constantly beats you over the head with same emotion, to wit:

p. 70: Paul hated his father so.
p. 170: Then sometimes he hated her.
p. 174: Once, he threw the pencil in her face.
p. 206: They hated each other in silence.
p. 213: …then he hated her—and he easily hated her.
p. 215: This, however, did not prevent his hating her.
p. 215: …she despised him… (Same page! I hit a double.)
p. 225: “I hate you!”
p. 229: And a touch of hate for her crept back into his heart.
p. 234: And immediately he hated Miriam bitterly.
p. 241: She sat crouched beneath…his hatred of her.
p. 244: He hated her bitterly at that moment…

And I’m only halfway through the book! This unrelenting tsunami of hatred is between people who supposedly love one another. In invoking “hate” so frequently—not just the word itself, but its essence, over and over again—he dilutes one of the two most powerful emotions of the human heart. When love comes along, you scarcely take it seriously.

But I’ll tell you one thing; they knew how to relax back in 1913. Paul’s boss, Mr. Pappleworth, arrived in the morning “…chewing a chlorodyne gum…”. According to the endnotes, chlorodyne gum was a narcotic and painkiller made from morphia, chloroform, India hemp and prussic acid. Prussic acid is also known as hydrogen cyanide—an extremely poisonous compound. Party in Mr. Pappleworth’s cube!

D.H. Lawrence isn’t so badass after all. But what do I know? The Modern Library placed Sons and Lovers ninth on their list of the 100 greatest novels of the 20th century. Maybe I should try Thomas Pynchon next. He’s always kind of freaked me out, too.


I have problems with my eyeballs. They constantly throb and ache because I stare at a screen for most of my waking hours. Sometimes, it’s so bad that I get a splitting headache. I’ve heard rumors that there are holistic remedies. I need to look into that. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

In the meantime, I eat aspirin and slather my eyeballs with eye drops. I’m terrible at dispensing the drops. Most of it ends up running down my cheeks. When I’m at work, I have to lock myself in a stall in the men’s room and have a tissue in hand to blot up the excess, least anyone think I’ve been in the bathroom sobbing hysterically.

Yesterday, I was going through this ridiculous procedure at work. I closed and locked the door behind me, sat down, tilted my head back, back, back…gently squeezed the bottle of drops…and I heard a loud snap. The toilet seat broke off its moorings and I slid off and landed flat on my ass. My legs were akimbo sticking out the front of the stall. My back is still sore from where it banged against the porcelain. At least it took my mind off of my sore eyeballs.


At this point, I’ve pretty much lost all respect for Roy Lichtenstein. I was a huge fan of his for many years. But there’s something about this latest example of procurement I recently stumbled across in MoMA that makes me uncomfortable.

This is Bauhaus Stairway by Oskar Schlemmer form 1932. A beauty, don’t you think?

schlemmer_bauhaus stairHanging on an adjacent wall is, you guessed it, Bauhaus Stairway by Roy Lichtenstein from 1988.


I know Lichtenstein built a career and made untold millions doing this sort of thing. I never minded before but I guess I’m over it. Ben day dots might’ve been an artistic innovation in 1963, but at this point it’s just lazy copying. It leaves me cold. Fail. I still like Warhol, though. There’s no rhyme or reason to this sort of thing. It’s all subjective emotions.

I saw this coming. The seeds of dissatisfaction were sown a couple of years ago.

88 thoughts on “Sons and Lovers and Me

  1. I used to think Lichtenstein was just brilliant…then I also (finally) realized he was “reinterpreting” actual work instead of coming up with it himself. Is he the only one? Of course not, but it is almost ALL of his work.

    Skilled artist? Yes. Creative and innovative? Not so much.

  2. Funny enough, I would equate Lawrence with sliding off a toilet seat and landing on my ass. People are delusional for liking this hack. Just cause he wrote a long time ago don’t make him a classic, or close. Painful to read for me, and I’ve never gotten through one of his books. I’ve tried.

    Sorry Mark, I laughed at the toilet seat/eyeball story. I probably shouldn’t. But I did. I could see that happening to me.

    • I see what you did. You try to disarm it by saying it could have easily happened to you but, no dice. I don’t believe that for a minute.

      I’ll finish the damn thing because it’s not bad enough to toss aside, but I don’t know what the fuss is all about.

      • You’re right, I don’t think that could have happened to me. But I’m still going to see if I can manage it, just to be sure…

        Yeah, Mr. Lawrence, much ado about nuthin.

  3. You could try using a filter on your monitor. They make filters for them to help reduce glare and make it easier on your eyes. The glasses I have have that built into it, though.

  4. I can’t get on with Lawrence. We had to do his poetry at school and I thought it a terrible waste of time. I had a go at Women in Love last year and gave up after about fifty pages. It just sounds silly and pretentious, and the language doesn’t capture me. I read it after Middlemarch, and George Eiliot has more knowing wit, and perceptive psychology, in one sentence, than an acre of Lawrence.

    • Well, SOMEBODY must be impressed with his work! It’s one of the most read books of the last century. Honesty, I don’t dislike it as much as you do but I don’t see what the fuss is all about.

      Isn’t Middlemarch one of those books we’re supposed to be aware of? I don’t mind stretching myself a bit intellectually, but I don’t want to give myself an aneurysm.

      • It’s great–it’s a real age turner, one of the best books about failed marriage and lots else besides. If you’re thinking of having a go at Pynchon, George Eliot would be a walk in the park afterwards!

      • ‘…age turner…’ Ha. That’s actually pretty funny. I don’t know what I’m going for next but I can assure you that after I finish Lawrence, I’ll be taking it easy for a book or two. None of the Pynchon crap until the summer.

  5. Hah! I think Lawrence preferred to write about simple emotions like love and hate because he found them more authentic and working class. One thing you could try for your eyeballs is a Chinese head massage. Maybe acupuncture too. Something Chinese anyway.

    • Well, it seems like Lawrence leans more toward hate than love. His characters love to hate!

      I will impose this video on my wife. She will watch it over and over until she gets it right. For better or worse, right? For richer and poorer? Sickness? Health?

  6. I’ve stated before and i’ll state it again, Pynchon is a fucking master class in writing, pop culture, philosophy, the man if fucking brilliant, can he be dense and almost indecipherable at times? yes… can he make you laugh out loud? yes… does he make you think? most definitely… i’m currently reading his newest Bleeding Edge and at 76 he writes circles around the kids these days… Mason and Dixon is probably my favorite book of his and V. was fantastic, Gravity’s Rainbow was a bit tough for me but i’m contemplating reading it again soon, Against the Day is a monster but is funny as hell, enough of my fanboy drooling though, Pynchon separates the men from the wee lads, an absolute beast.

    • He’s one of those guys on my ‘should read’ list. As I’ve gotten older and, hopefully, wiser, I’ve become more inclined to tackle these tough sons-of-bitches who gave me grief when I was younger. I foolishly tried to tackle Ulysses when I was about 20 and it just wasn’t happening for me. Shakespeare is a tough read for me but at least I can cut through the thickets when I see it performed on stage. Okay, that settles it. Mason and Dixon it is. Incidentally, a signed first edition of of that title will set you back +/- $25K.

  7. I read DH Lawrence at uni, and decided to give Sons and Lovers a re-read a couple of months ago. It’s a strangely easy read considering when it was written, and I actually enjoyed it this time around (not having the threat of essays hanging over me). It’s a weird old world – Freud would have a field day. Try Lady Chatterley’s Lover next if you want some real dirt…

    • Hi Jo. Nice to see you again. I like that you check in every three months or so.

      Listen…Paul, the main character, is making out with his MOTHER, for cryin’ out loud. If that’s the kind of real dirt that’s in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, then I’ll pass, thank you very much. Where can I find some decent straight sex scenes? I, too, am surprised what a breeze it is to read. I thought it’d be tougher.

  8. Lawrence and Lichtenstein in one go? Ewww! way too much for this chicken.

    I read Lady Chatterley years ago, when it was on the banned list(how can you ban a book that is proscribed reading for University!) More than 50 years later I still don’t know what the kerfuffle was about..I suspect that Lawrence, the man, was more interesting than his characters..

    As to your eyes, I’d say you need 2 things…glare-reduction lenses and time away from that little screen.

    Now…I need something to make me stop giggling.One should not laugh at the image of one’s de-throned friend …Bwahahaha….

    • I know. I gave you guys the old one-two punch. Two half-wit, half talents in one post. It’s downright cruel.

      Lady Chatterley is supposed to be the really dirty one. That’s the one I should have picked up. At least I would have been titillated. That’s more than I can say for this thing I’m reading now. There’s nothing titillating about kissing your mom. Ick.

      I’m working on time away from ALL screens. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m such a slave to this stuff. Computer were supposed to set us free but I’m just a mess.

  9. I won’t even comment on the Lawrence. Every so-called Great Classic novel just leaves me cold. I’ve been known to run screaming from a room at the mere mention of “Bronte” And as far as the Chlorodyne gum is concerned, wasn’t it true that Coke really had coke in it, in the 20s and 30s?

    Cold used teabags can be very soothing placed on the eyes for 5 minutes. Try keeping them in a baggie in the fridge.

    Really like the Schlemmer, but the other just looks like a cheap knock-off. It has none of the warmth nor the depth of the original.

    Sorry about the lack of an icon/avatar picture, but WordPress is insisting I’m someone else, so have had to make a change. I think it’s mostly Google’s fault somewhere.

    • I won’t go as far as you. I’ve read many great classics. I thought On The Road was quite good and, truthfully, To Kill a Mockingbird completely changed my life. That book turned me into a reader. So that counts for plenty.

      I tried cucumber slices last week but that didn’t do any good. Next, I’ll do the tea bags and will report back to you.

      You have no need for a fancy avatar. We know you’re more than just a pretty face. I think this happens to a lot of people who comment from Blogger. It’s no matter. It’s only an aesthetic.

  10. I love D. H. Lawrence. I have from the first time I picked up one of his books back in the Sixties. I think I’ve read all his writings.

    As for Kerouac…The King Rules! The king of the road…

    • Lawrence is much, much more accessible than I ever imagined he would be. I’m reading him to fulfill a promise I made to a friend—Bukowski’s old publisher, in fact—who has been trying to get me to read him for years!

  11. I’ve lost the ability to concentrate on any kind of printed material other than blogs, cookbooks, and the occasional autobiography or nonfiction book. I used to be voracious when it came to fiction especially the highbrow stuff (which as you point out, can be perfectly accessible). As far as your eye problems, I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that you need (new?) glasses. I have very bad vision and if I read the screen too much with contact lenses in it can be very painful, but I have greater stamina with my glasses for some reason. Also try not to get too close to the screen. Have you spoken to an eye dr about your issues? As for the back pain, you can take the double the label dose of advil for short periods without dying.

    • Don’t let your brain dry up like that! You need to exercise that muscle or it’ll turn into mush. You can’t count on blogs to keep your pencil sharp. Since you were voracious at one point I don’t know how you gave it up. Did it just fade away or did you go cold turkey?

      I plan on seeing an eye doctor as soon as I have proper healthcare. I can’t imagine what something like that would cost me at this point.

      My back is all better, thank you. It was just where I bruised it against the commode. A most unlikely accident but I’m telling you it happened.

  12. When you do get to the eye doctor, ask for ‘computer glasses’ — as the computer is further away than a book. Use ’em only at the computer; really helps. Staring at the computer really stresses the eye muscles.
    As for free things that help (learned in Chinese Tai Chi class): Without moving your head, slowly move your eyes left as far as possible and then right as far as possible. Stretch out your arms; then slowly move your vision from finger tips to shoulder. Rub your hands together (to create warmth) and gently cup your hands over your eyes. Do the moving-the-eyeballs thing while your hands are over your eyes…with eyes closed and with them open.
    Google “Bates Eye Exercises” — I seem to remember a friend, years ago, said the exercises ‘cured’ her need for glasses.

    • Actually, I already HAVE computer glasses! God only knows what a mess I’d be if I didn’t use them. The problem isn’t with my monitor at work. It’s this stupid iPhone and my monitor at home. I like to think that I suffer for my art. It’s darkly poetic. Thanks for all these great tips and exercises! I should send you $5 bucks. Next stop: Google to see who this Bates person is.

  13. I’m going to sound like an old geezer here, but the art has pretty much died in the early 20th century. It stopped being a visual representation of reality, and became a never-ending search for the another novel or outrageous way to put things and images together. Lichtenstein is just one of many examples of that trend.

    • I get what you’re saying and I can see your point. But I really love some 20th century art. I’ve turned a corner in a museum and have been gobsmacked by a painting that I didn’t really understand or couldn’t explain away. Sometimes, it’s just a visceral reaction to gobs of paint arranged a certain way on the canvas. But I’ve seen a lot of CRAP, as well. Don’t get me started on Basquiat. Not one good painting. NOT ONE.

  14. What a brave boy to put your own eye drops in. I used to have to chase my elder son to put his in.
    Rest your eyes by looking into the distance as often as poss. Re D.H. where does love end and passion begin? Their relationship was certainly passionate.
    Well done for spotting Chef’s pop-up thingy.

    • Here’s the best way to apply eye drops: Lay in bed and close your eyes. Place the drop in the corner of your eye close to you nose. Slowly open your eye. Works every time. No mess.

      I know EXACTLY where passion begins and it’s NOT with mommy. That makes my flesh crawl just typing it.

  15. While dinahmow is giggling-I am laughing hysterically at the image. Thanks for the morning laugh it’s always nice when your cube mate comes over and asks “what is so funny”?

    • I haven’t been reminded of Bloom County for a long, long time. I think they occupied the same cosmic space as Doonesbury but wasn’t as high profile. What was that Penguin’s name? If you need me I’ll be over at Google…

      • Correct. I remember most of the major characters, plenty of the minor, and can quote selected strips.

        When they released the full collection (in five flippin volumes), I bought them. they sit proudly atop my collected Far Side.

      • That’s impressive. Stuff drains out of my memory like a sieve. I don’t know why I can’t retain anything. It might be all that weed when I was in high school. I think they’re going to do a study one day and find that weed is far more harmful than we ever imagined.

        I feed my 12-year old daughter a steady diet of Calvin and Hobbs books. She loves ’em.

  16. The proper way to administer eyedrops is to pull down or pinch your lower lid. It will literally make a little receptacle. Put the drops right in. I can’t believe your eye doctor never told you this.

    • I don’t really HAVE an eye doctor. I’ve gotten my glasses from a couple of different guys. The last one was a mean old junkyard dog who I’ll never go back to again.

      I’m great with eye drops if I can lay down. I place the drops in the corner of my eye nearest my nose and then open my eyes It’s sure-fire! Thanks for the tip. I’ll go try it right now, in fact.

  17. According to Wired (9/20/13): “….f.lux, a free desktop app claims to save your eyesight…works by adapting your display’s color temperature to something more natural, depending on time of day…takes a bit of getting used to…if you use it regularly, your eyes will thank you later” Download at

  18. That’s awesome you read this. You give me hope. I’m trying to get through the Modern Library’s top 10 english language novels. Sons and Lovers is on there. I read D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and it was slow and gross. Lady Chatterly often describes her lust for the hunter as being “in her bowels.” What?!

    I’m reading Ulysses right now, and it’s taking forever. Not an easy read. I compare it to “going to the gym” in my mind. But I’m reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series to balance it out. So I can sympathize. Nice post!

    • Hi Andrew. Welcome aboard. Please wipe your feet.

      You are a brave man. I tried reading Ulysses TWICE and both were failed attempts. I simply couldn’t get through the thicket of words. I ended up feeling very down about myself. I took it personally and felt I was too “dumb” for Joyce. So I was particularly thrilled to see that Lawrence was such an easy read. Redemption comes from strange places.

      • Yeah I don’t blame you. I thought if I kept reading it, that it would get easier. Not so. But thankfully I’m reading it with like 6 friends. That way I have someone to cry with. So keep up the “reading old books that are difficult and no one really wants to read” fight. I’ll be there with you.

      • Ah. The aul’ peer pressure. That’s how I ended up drinking all that cough medicine in high school. And look how that worked out! Turn back. It’s not too late.

        You want a classic? Read To Kill a Mockingbird. In my estimation, the greatest book ever written.

    • If I could still get chlorodyne, I TOTALLY WOULD. I need to anesthetize myself from my dull existence, much like Mr. Pappleworth had to.

      I’m happy that the book is so accessible. But for its girth, I’m having a nice time with it. That’s always a big treat when you thought you were in for a big struggle.

  19. (I accidentally unfollowed you; how’d I do that?)
    Lawrence and I years ago agreed to disagree. I’ve just come off Graham Greene The Power and the Glory. It was harder going than I remembered. I may try Our Man in Havana again or The Heart of the Matter, which I remember loving. These are all more modern than Lawrence but even there it’s remarkable how much language usage and syntax has changed in less than 100 years. One of my favourite books is A Passage to India. I can read it over and over. I know people who absolutely hate it. But then, I know people who hate Vonnegut, who is positively simplistic by comparison.

    • I’m deep into Sons and Lovers and I’ve grown to enjoy it. I’m just happy it wasn’t the brain drain I thought it was going to be. What a nice surprise.

      Graham Greene is, in my world, one of the absolute masters. I collect rare books and I have a bookshelf that groans under the weight of his first editions. Our Man in Havana is a riot. Have you read The Honorary Council? It’s one of his late-in-life masterpieces. The Quiet American is one of my favorite books ever. Hell…they’re ALL good! Fun fact: Did you know that when The Power and the Glory was published in the U.S., the title was changed to the clunky and inelegant The Labyrinthine Ways? Idiots. How do you give up a great title like The Power and The Glory for that mess? Why do they meddle? Did you know what U.S. publishers did to A Clockwork Orange when it was first published here? Don’t get me started.

      I’ve never read A Passage to India but will put it on my A list.

      I think that “accidentally” unfollowing someone is called passive/aggressive.

      • Or palsy shake. I’m blaming infirmity on the fact that I’m pretty sure I’ve already mentioned Greene in an earlier comment. I do this sometimes, forget who I’ve said what to, which makes me the sad old man at the party.

        I did not know about the U.S. Greene title but have heard about the butchering of Clockwork; cut off the last chapter, didn’t they? And doesn’t the film, which most people know over the book, follow the truncated version? I think I read a piece by Burgess about how much he hated Clockwork.

      • Cut off the last chapter and completely CHANGED THE ENDING. Idiots. Kubrick followed the US version in his film, in which you seen an unredemptive Alex at the end. In the book he denounces violence. Have you ever read Clockwork? It’s really, really good. Burgess invents a language and it take a couple readings to enjoy it to its fullest.

      • I never have. I think I’m going to grab it from the school library here. I’m pretty sure they recently bought an original version.

  20. Ohhhhhhhhh this made me laugh. I’m so sorry, but the image of you sliding onto your bum whilst trying to administer eyedrops is extremely funny to me. I hope the bruise disappears soon…
    I have only ever read DH Lawrence’s short stories, and whilst enjoyable I found them to be a rather relentless dirge of minute description and rather unemotional encounters… which all makes perfect sense now, because the dude clearly used all his emotion up in Son’s and Lovers! Hatred Central! That amount of repetition would infuriate me so much. ‘Once, he threw the pencil in her face…’ – I mean, come on, DH Lawrence! There’s no need for such abhorrent violence!

    • I’ve FINALLY neared the end of the book it wasn’t bad at all. It’s wildly overwritten. Why make a point with two three clean sentences when you can prattle on for a page or more on the same idea and really beat the point to death? Everyone needs an editor. Even me! Look at this comment response!

      • It’s contemporary literature, as well. Last year I read a book named Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. It was picked by the New York Times as one of the 10 best books of the year and was wildly popular. I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait until it was OVER. Every character in that book could have been eaten by crocodiles and I wouldn’t have cared a whit. Awful.

      • Hey, don’t take my word for it. In fact, I WANT you to read it and get back to me and give me your honest opinion. Maybe I’m the broken one and society is perfectly healthy. That’s the more likely scenario.

      • At the risk of losing precious Netflix hours, I might give it a try. I get bored easily with books, so you might not be the only one.

  21. Well, I’m afraid to say it but I’m a D. H. Lawrence fan. I read “Lady Chatterly” in university but then read it again this summer after I split from my ex and moved out (if you are inclined you can read about it on my blog). Having experienced affairs, I was intrigued to see if the book was more than just the naughty bits. Regardless of whether it was overwritten, I could completely relate to the emotions and the situation of the characters. So for me, it was a win.

    • Why afraid to say so?! Your opinion is just as valid as mine, that’s for damn sure! I’m just about done and it wasn’t bad at all. Quite enjoyable, actually. I still feel it was overwritten. He couldn’t make a point in a paragraph. He went for a page or two. But the story flowed and I wasn’t suffocated, which is what I originally thought would happen.

      • Excellent, point…yes. I do agree with your overwritten comments. What I think is brilliant about his work is the capturing of situations and emotions. I have “Women in Love” on my bedstand now which is again a re-read…and some consider it one of his best.

      • The fact that I enjoyed it as much as I did while a lot of people find him difficult or off-putting makes me feel like I won a “smart” contest. I’ll take my victories anyway I can.

        In Sons and Lovers, Paul kind of made-out with his mom a little bit. That was nauseating. Next time, I’d prefer to be titillated, thank you very much.

  22. Pingback: D. H. Lawrence on Plenty of Fish | ann st vincent

  23. Sounding like a “spy” is awesome, thank you. I should add “spy” to my linked in profile. You inspired me to put my favorite Lawrence quote up on my blog tonight – given I’ve been trying online dating. To be super provocative, mildly annoying, and to break some of your rules above, I will only post the link here:

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