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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

16 November, 2004

Book Review: Lady Chatterly’s Lover According to Spike Milligan

A Case for Annotation

Ours is essentially a tragic age, therefore we refuse to live it tragically – thus begins, arguably the most notorious novel of the twentieth century. Notorious for the times it was written in, notorious because it used the forbidden ‘f word’ copiously in the text, notorious because it cocked a snook at English class distinctions – the eponymous lover was a gamekeeper on the Chatterley estate.

Notorious also because D H Lawrence’s novel enjoyed the iconic status of a forbidden ‘dirty book’ – it was, in fact, the dirty book to end all dirty books, spoken of in whispers, and only by its initials LCL. And naturally, proscribed and banned. Until, in 1960, the famous cause celebre Regina vs. Penguin Books finally drew aside the veil of mystery and it was available in its dubious unexpurgated glory on the bookstands.

Today one could be forgiven for wondering what the fuss was all about. Sex is no longer dirty, and it’s permanently, almost boringly out of the closet. What’s more, there is even an award given each year for bad sex writing – and in retrospect, one can’t help believing that DHL would have probably romped home with the mitten for LCL.

D H Lawrence wasn’t ever in my first ten where my reading list was concerned. And long before the word spoof entered the language I decided that he was one writer who, if he had to be read at all, had to be read in glorious, merciless spoof. Fortunately, there was at least one fertile, level-headed mind who had roughly the same idea: in fact, he went one better and wrote the thing himself.

Where the original brought (supposedly) the steam of sex out into the open, without the waft of deodorant, Spike Milligan’s little masterpiece* clears that unhealthy sauna with a blast of wholesomely rude laughter. Dip anywhere into its 164-page riot and you could be forgiven for unseemly mirth in solemn places – as a matter of fact, this book has no business in solemn places. That includes bedrooms. Particularly bedrooms, because you can’t possibly get down to serious stuff with your pink negligee-ed partner if you’ve just read, This woman Lady Chatterley had cost him that bitter privacy of a man who had been a perfectly happy onanist. Or,
‘In a way,’ he said, ‘I’d thought I’d done with it all. Now I’ve begun again.’
‘Begun what?’
‘Fucking,’ he said.
‘Fucking?’ she said with a queer thrill.
‘Fucking,’ he said. ‘There’s no keeping clear of it.’
‘It’s just love,’ she said.
‘No it isn’t, it’s fucking!’
‘You don’t hate me do you?’
‘Nay, nay, you’re a good fuck, it was a good fuck. How was it for you?’
‘Yes, for me too,’ she answered untruthfully because she had not been conscious of much, even at eight thrusts a second. That was true aristocracy.
Understandably, the temptation to reproduce the whole book is irresistible, and the only deterrent is the copyright business – but here’s another snatch:
With both hands Mellors pushed her breasts up from underneath, up to underneath her chin, with a cry of ‘Wheeee’, and let them fall down and bounce to a halt. ‘Wheeee’ he said and did it again.
‘Look,’ said Constance. ‘That’s enough of that, I’m not a bloody fairground.’
It is uniquely a phenomenon of the twilight years of the century past that the door was all but firmly shut on sexual hypocrisy, its place being grabbed by a rollicking, insouciant – and vastly healthier – irreverence. But Spike Milligan anticipated it even in his earlier, better known works.

The delectable mincing of Lady Chatterley was merely an inevitable step in his breezy, boisterous progress.



Blogger John said...

Duh! Come again. What is the name of Spike Milligan's book, if it is one? Forgive me. This is new to me. Also where can I get it in Mumbai?

17 November, 2004 11:26  
Blogger Geetanjali said...

:-) Outrageous! Howlarious! Hilarious! I recently gave my copy of LCL to a friend to read after discovering it in a pile of old books...think I must ask him to find this one as well!!!

17 November, 2004 12:03  
Blogger zigzackly said...

Loved that. And where can i get my hands on this book?

17 November, 2004 17:45  
Blogger SPECKLED_BAND said...

Penguin Books, 1995. There is also the Spike Milligan interpretation of "John Thomas and Lady Jane", the second of three versions, of which Lady Chatterley was the last. Since I've stopped datelining my books, I'm not sure where I bought my copy, but I think it was The Strand, Bombay or Bangalore.

18 November, 2004 06:35  

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