Marketing D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence's Love Among the Haystacks was published on this day in 1930. Lawrence had died eight months earlier, and the story collection was an attempt to capitalize on his passing and his reputation for titillation, the cheap reprint editions featuring dust-jackets in the bodice-ripping style. The title-story, written almost two decades earlier, is set in the farms about Nottingham, its central characters two city boys, young brothers who had been kept away from common girls and so "had grown up virgin but tormented." Then they meet Paula - "twenty years old, swift and light as a wild cat, with a strange, wild-cat way of grinning" - and one rainy night when she and one of the brothers are putting the tarp over the high haystack the ladder falls, leaving them stranded.

 

The soft-core marketing was not new, of course, and Lawrence was complicit. His newspaper article "Sex Locked Out" was published on this day in 1928 in the Sunday Dispatch, and then reprinted elsewhere as "Sex Appeal," or "Sex vrs. Loveliness." Lawrence wrote a number of articles on similar topics - other titles include "The Real Trouble About Women" and "Do Women Change?" - publishing them all in the lower-ranked newspapers. His motive was primarily money, but he was eager to promote his views in any forum, and as the highbrow papers were by now wary of him, the tabloids would do. "Though the thought of the godless Sabbath public makes me shiver a bit," he wrote the Dispatch editor, "I still believe that it has more spunk than the 'refined' public. It comes back with some sort of response, even if it gives one gooseflesh."

 

But Lawrence had become fed up with refinement long before this. Over a decade earlier - on November 13, 1915 - Lawrence's The Rainbow had been judged obscene by the British courts, over 1000 unsold copies then seized and burned. When the outraged critics had judged the book to be a "monotonous wilderness of phallicism," Lawrence had cast them out: "I am not very much moved.... I only curse them all, body and soul, root, branch and leaf, to eternal damnation." And they had been already well cursed two years before this, when his Sons and Lovers was having trouble finding a publisher: "Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rutters, the flaming sods, the sniveling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulse-less lot that make up England today."

 


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

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