Esdaile's Reviews > The Rainbow

The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence
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Dec 12, 11

Read in January, 1970

I cannot explain it myself but I feel and have always felt, DH Lawrence's novels to be enormously tedious. I have read them out of a sense of duty to Literature with a capital L and have always been pleased when the ride was over. It is not that I am unsympathetic to the man or his ideas. Quite the contrary. I met someone once who said that they intensely disliked what Lawrence was trying to say but admired Larence's novels as great literature. With me it is exactly the opposite. I strongly approve of what he is saying but am half bored half repelled by the way he is trying to say it. I find the Leavis "discovery" of DH Lawrence contrived. I think it is the earnestness and gravitas of the novels which I find wearying and uninspiring. I am simply uninterested beyond words in his generations and families and his grave pronuncments about their feelings and fates, but why, when I find, say, Thomas Mann's "Buddenbrooks", comparable as the history of a family, with "The Rainbow" enthralling? One answer may lie in the inherent purtianism of Lawrence's view of the world, yes puritanism, the smell of church, the ponderous finger wagging. Nevertheless, I award these two stars in sadness and envy rather than disagreement with those who award four or five.
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message 1: by Littlover (last edited Jun 14, 2012 08:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Littlover The only reason One might find lawrence a tedious would be there lack of conection to life! lawrence transcended plot, and standard moral costodianhood. His porpose was not to entertain you with story but to conect you with the human being deep inside us that has been buried in the industrial age. It isthe lack of conection with our core feelings, as Lawrence said in this novle the "darkness" That would make this novle hard to read or boring to one. He truly laid forth the human experiane, and he did it with out grouping it catagorizing, or judging it. Most novles try to right or wrong certian behaviors and social expectations, Lawrence in this novle only laid them and there efects on us forth, along with our struggles against these Unchanglble events, with out calling any of it wright or wrong, he gave it to us and said (none the less, there it is) This is a novle masterd. Unless of course as E.M Forester said your are no more thatn the cave man with his jaw agape listening to the story of the mastadon kill.

Esdaile Hmm, so you are saying people who find DH Lawrence tedious lack a "connection to life". Hard words! I certainly disagree that DH Lawrence laid forth the entire human experience. What an exaggerated claim you make for him. I have a problem already with the notion that he transcends plot, I mean that if you are right then it helps to explain my lack of enthusiasm for his novels, because I am one of those old fashioned persons who still needs a plot as anchor to hold onto in a novel. There are plots in all Lawrence's novels of course but I take it you think that they are transcended and ultimately of secondary importance? DH Lawrence offers me no practical advice, offers me few new insights and does not entertain me. This may well be my loss -perhaps you could elucidate, with examples, the forces which are revealed in the novel and you would judge to represent the "human deep inside". Surely you are wrong about "standard custodianhood" as you put it. DH Lawrence was anti-war (a minority in 1914 to be sure but hardly an amoral position) and he was also in favour of anti-pornogrpahy laws. That is also a position which was at the time he was writing in tune with the opinions of the majority and of many people to this day. (He believed his novels were not pornogrpahyand I would agree with him but the popint is his quarrel with the censorship was a amtter of the definition of what was pornography, not whether pornography was immoral as such, which in fact he believed it to be.)

Littlover First there are two books wich i recomend to you, first is, Aspects of the novle by E.M Forester and second, This Is Carbon: a defense of D.H Lawrences The rainbow against his admirers. Both are excelent litterary criticisms that will give you much mor insight on litterature and will help you better understand litterature and lawrence.
Yes you nailed it on the head with old fashioned, like i paraphrased before, your are no more than the cave man with his jaw agape listening to the story of the mastadon kill. This is a story for you. Hanging on plot, nothing more than page turning for what happend next, unable to read through the prose, you need everything delineated for you. Learn to decode and understand the concious and unconcious effects that these writters have bestowed us with in there novels. Like said in Frazier, (You will go down in history with the first boob that read Hamlet and said, what a parchment turner!)

Esdaile There is nothing despicable about writing a "parchment (or page) turner"-Dostoyevsky did it and so did Dickens, they needed the money. Shakespeare did not invent his own plots but he chose those that he knew had the necessary element of "event-driven" compulsion.
You have said nothing about Lawrence which gives me any desire to try to read something like The Rainbow again. Life is too short and there are too many books out there which I expect I shall enjoy. Finally, perhaps you could explain to me what entitles you, in your opinion, to be so condescending to people like myself.

message 5: by Littlover (last edited Jun 06, 2012 11:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Littlover Well no there is nothing wrong with writting a "parchment turner" its just there not for anything besides escapism. And by the the way im not a Dostoyvesky fan. His lense was far to narrow and culturaly adjusted. And if you take me as condesending im sorry, im just stating an opinon i have formulated from the word you have spoken to me, its just how i feel. And as far as Your comment on Lawerence trying to urge more dionysian on us is a compleat falsity based on your academic lense. You see you are viewing lawrence through a lense that the academic culture has created. Lawrence shaterd all of this with the rainbow, if you read it for what it is. You see Lawrence placed his characters on a human plain not a cultural or social plain, and amidst this placed them aginst the social norms and expectations. When his charecters drift twords socioty they are destroyed when they drift twords the human they are ignited with life. He shaterd social conventions and with that said if you are to read him through a conventional social lense you cant read him and expect to enjoy it, unless you enjoy the very fabric of your social being being torn to shreds. He makes us question the entire stance form wich we view novels and even life its self in this book. He didnt say that we arent cultural and social beings he just said we are more than that, and its this "more" that he celebrates in The Rainbow. Im not sure if you got any of this out of the rainbow but it couldnt be any more clear if you just read it plain, and as a human.

Littlover No reply hu?

Esdaile Everything you say about DH Larence is spoken as a generalisation, so it is hard to follow. How exactly does Lawrence "shatter a lense that academioc culture has created"? I You write that DH Larence does not place his characters on a human not a social or cultural plain. I think this is completely wrong. Lady Chatterly's Lover, to take an obvious example, is all about the meeting of two social plains. I do not know what reading through a social lense means, so cannot comment on that. I do enjoy some of his short stories (for example "Tickets Please!" while "The Snake" was about the first poem I deeply enjoyed when I read it at school. What do you mean "he makes us question the entire stance from which we view novels"? Who is "we"? I expect your stance was always different from mine, so "we" makes no sense here. So far as "academic culture" is concerned, wasn't it FR Leavis who boosted DHL's reputation? Some people suspect that if Leavis, who seemed to consider himself the embodiment of Cambridge Univeristy academic culture, had not "discovered" DH Lawrence, his novels might have remained in relative obscurity. Still, I do not wish to be made to say that I consider DH Lawrence to be a poor writer, I just do not enjoy reading his novels very much and life is too short and there are too many writers whose novels I do and shall enjoy, for it to be worth my while to read his novels again, in most cases it would be for a thrid time).

message 8: by Littlover (last edited Jun 14, 2012 08:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Littlover You are correct in the fact that I shouldn’t use “we” I should have generalized and said most. But as far as your comment on Lady Chatterley’s and your using it to prove me wrong is absolutely silly for the fact that you’re again misinterpreting what he did. You see they break the social plain by disregarding what society deems as correct and decide to follow what they feel in their core. For what was her life with Clifford but death, death of her soul. Why should she have followed Clifford to the grave because it was correct by society’s standards? Well Connie chose life. Much like how Ursula chose life when she decided to abandon Skerbensky, for skerbensky represented the social robot, this was especially emphasised by skerbensky being a soldier. Skerbensky left Ursula to go to the war, for he didn’t love her enough to stay, he loved the order of the military more , his place in the establishment was more important than she was to him. He seen himself through a lens that society created, inorder to find signifigance in himself, hence destroying the human inside of him, and so Skerbensky lived in the tomb. She later in the novel denies skerbensky the marriage knowing that he is more than half entombed. This denial destroys skerbensky inside; he even breaks out into tears. There is a small amount of miss understood humanity left in him, and this is half of what is crying, yet it is what he chose by being a social instrument instead of a man. Ursula went with her core instinct and denied him, she didn’t choose what was socially correct, the other half was was crying because she didn’t except his social image and this was the final nail in skerbenskys coffin. It destroyed him. And this is only one of many example of how Lawrence pits the human in us against the social self. Lawrence used skerbensky and countless other examples to destroy the lens created by academia. You see most of academia is much like skerbensky they want to attach some form of manmade significance to novels like Beautiful prose, poetry or symbolism, or they want to attach significance to themselves by criticizing novels and there lack of literary refinement. With their He told me instead of showed me, and other such lens’s. Either example is much like how skerbensky attached significance to himself by being a soldier. And much like how skerbensky was destroyed and buried so has been most of academia do to their inability to celebrate the life in us and in this novel. And so with this example, I hope I need not use more, you should be able to see how Lawrence “shattered the lens that academia has created. Hopefully that clears my opinion up for you.
To sum it up slightly let me quote Trilling. “Now Feud may be right or he may be wrong in the place that gives to biology in human fate, but I think we must stop to consider whether this emphasis on biology, whether correct or incorrect is not so far from being a reactionary that it is actually a liberating idea. It proposes to us that culture is not all powerful. It suggests that there is a residue of human quality beyond the reach of cultural control, and that this residue of human quality, element as it may be serves to bring culture it’s self under criticism and keeps it from being absolute.” This residue is what Lawrence called carbon and this is what he celbrated He said " “The ordinary novel would trace the history of the diamond - but I say, `Diamond, what! This is carbon.' And my diamond may be coal or soot and my theme is carbon.”
As far as leavis was concerned, I believe that you don’t truly understand that Leavis actually buried the rainbow with his tactics of an attempted revival. Are you familiar with Lawrence’s Quote on Cézanne’s apple? I will take an excerpt from it to give you an example of what people like Leavis have done to D.H. " So that Cezanne’s apple hurts. It made people shout with pain. And it was not till his followers had turned him again into an abstraction that he was ever accepted. Then the critics stepped forth and abstracted his good apple into significant form, and henceforth Cezanne was saved”.
You see people like Leavis only made use of Lawrence by abstracting him. Leavis seemed to use poetry and symbolism to revive Lawrence and give him significance again. This is what I speak of. He had to use an idea created by man like poetry and symbolism to give Lawrence meaning or acceptance amongst the literary world. This is what I mean by a social lens. It means reading a novel and viewing it with socially created form of significance. This is what Leavis did with his Application of poetry and symbolism. You are correct about leavis embodying the academic culture, and with this, leavis's Opinion of Lawrence is obsolete to me.

Esdaile Worthwshile points. I do not at all share your total hostility to academic culture and must plead again in favour of the distinction which Nietzsche made between Appolinian and Dionysian elements in art and I cannot help feeeling that you follow that line of argument yourself, whatever you may think or say about Nietzsche. Are you not in fact saying that DH Lawrence champions the Dionysian spirit? Very strongly in Lady Chatterly, where Lord Chatterly is an invalid who reads Proust (laying it on thick-a Proust reader and an invalid and an aristocrat-he is well doomed in the author's eyes!)
I personally believe in a balance between the Appollonian and Dyonisian or you might prefer the terms academy and emotions felt with the blood. I did not know the appel strory but I understand and sympathise. The very notion of Literature with a cpaital L or "the canon" as described by Harold Bloom can become stultifying and ridiculous if taken to extremes, as indeed it IS taken to extremes by Bloom himself and does become somewhat comical in his book; equally however, a complete rejection contains its own danger, namely personal arrogance (my opinion is as valid as the opinion of someone who knows a work much better than I do) of the ignorant and extreme subjectivism which becomes indistinguishable from philistinism: "I think it is cr**p therefore it is cr**p")-an attitude very common here in Goodreads, but I certainly do not include you, since like me you are able to make cogent points without falling back to a puerile subjectivism.
There is one aspect of academic praise which you ignore, it is mentioned in Somerset Maugham's "Moon and Sixpense" which is a biographical novel of Gaugin: in the novel an artdealer points out the oft forgotten obvious, that a fabulously talented painter to be successful cannot reply on his/her talent alone but must be publicised, feted, exhibited and generally promoted. This applies to all fields of art. Famous writers may well be to a certain extent tamed, or as you might think, deadened, by becoming part of a canon, but the nagging thought remains: would you or I have read or even heard of DH Lawrence without the acadmic push and reocgnition which he received thanks to academics like Leavis? The last point is that there has always been an argument and I think Aristotle was the first to put it to paper (or was it papyrus in his case?) that art has a subliminal role, in making as it were the unbearable bearable, thus tragedy is a catharsis, a religious experience which justifies the ways of God, or providence or nature, to man.

message 10: by Littlover (last edited Aug 07, 2012 01:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Littlover Nice one with Aristotle and the papyrus, I enjoyed that. You make some points that I don’t argue, like the fact that Artists must become part of a canon to become recognized, and I believe that you or I would proably not have read Lawrence if he had not been lifted or should I say brought down by academia. Just because Leavis made many aware doesn’t mean that he understood Lawrence and it surely doesn’t mean that he didn’t contribute to the mass looting of Lawrence’s literary wealth. However I don’t have hostility twords the academic culture, I just believe that most of it is ridiculous and robs many great novels of their power, and one of the novelists that they have pilfered more than most is Lawrence. Again I don’t hate this culture I merely state what their effects on us and the novels they pedestal. And as far as your comments on Lady Chatterley’s, I won’t argue that Lawrence wasn’t extremely didactic in this one, yet that was part of its immensity, The ferocity which he laid it forth with, and the disregard for all standards and expectations, besides his own, these are a few of the many parts that make it a great novel. Yet Still the Rainbow is the book I was originally discussing and believe that Lady Chatterley’s deserves a Dialogue of its own. And yes Clifford being an invalid who reads Proust could be interpreted as Championing the Dionysian Yet I don’t see it this way I feel that method of Interpretation is too constricting and I feel that it closes it off at the pass. Lawrence Again in my opinion championed the human inside us, all aspects whether they lead us to the grave or not, I feel he just stated the effects of modernity and society on us. He did it without trying to tell us how to live or to counteract these effects, he just used his novels to display these effects and our either going to the grave or choosing life. He gave us beautiful examples of choosing life and he let us know that its ok to be human, he let us know that we don’t have to feel shame for choosing life. This is what I feel that Lawrence championed.

message 11: by Kenneth (new)

Kenneth Margo Hear hear-tedeious straining to express some sort of unconscious soul at war with the everyday consciousness. Recommend strongly Stella Gibbon's delightful parody of the earthy 'genuine ' animalness Lawrence idolises in Cold Comfort Farm

Lucinda I feel exactly like you. Didn't you find it very outdated too ?

Esdaile Yes, I do.

Lucinda It just makes me mad when edwardian or georgian authors and people try to make us believe the victorian era was more conservative than their times while they actually had writers attacked on grounds of obscenity.
Apparently it never occurred to them that by wanting to appear more modern, they backlashed the Victorians who were as liberal as they in terms of attitudes towards sex (except, maybe, it was less accepted in official circles, like the aristocrats and around the queen for instance).
But because of this moral emphasis from the Queen (especially after Prince Albert died) on social life, the Victorians were completely obsessed, if not more than the Edwardians, by sex. Problem is, this is not what the official discourse promotes, they want you to believe all Victorians were prudish. we are lucky to have recent groundbreaking studies on the topic which can show that, for instance, London was the capital of sexual tourism, using children as prostitutes from a very early age.

Esdaile Lucinda wrote: "It just makes me mad when edwardian or georgian authors and people try to make us believe the victorian era was more conservative than their times while they actually had writers attacked on ground..."

I do not understand what point you wish to make.

Lucinda A lot of people think the Victorians were prudish and repressed sexuality badly. Problem is, this view is inaccurate. I studied the whole topic throughout (that's what I do in my job, I wanna be a Victorian painting curator) and it is a cliché. This is also the impression you get by reading Lawrence who set his novels in the Victorian era.
Problem is, the view was mostly spread by modernist authors like Lawrence whom, because they wanted to appear as liberal in terms of sexual matters, backlashed the decades they grew in to assert their groundbreaking way of thinking better.

Is that clearer for you Esdaile ? I have tons of exemples for you if you wanna discuss the topic.

message 17: by Esdaile (last edited Aug 20, 2015 10:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esdaile that is clearer. I am not sure how non puritanical you considered the people of the so-called Victorian era to have been but there are certain books which reinforce the belief, books of the time not DH Lawrence. for example Tom Brown's School Days, what about the extravagent writing of Nietzsche which strikes me as straining with supressed stress on the word supressed sexual energy? Dickens novels seem to point to a world repressed and repressive in many way including the sexual way. So much writing is sublimated-eg Lewis Carrol's Looking Glass World. Sublimation points to repression of what is by necessity repressed or supressed or both. Those are just off the cuff remarks. The subject, I should argue, is a complicated one. Is not the lack of discussion of a subject which necessarily dominated many aspects of peoples' lives not indicative of prudery and supression of feelings? Does not the gloom and pruitanism of Dickens contrast strongly with the relative freshness and openess of the pre Victorians Thackery and Jane Austen?

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