Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Monday, August 13, 2012

"Obsession, Instability and Malignant Coincidence"

Once again I've been living in the past, this time the English midlands in the early 19th century. I've skipped half a century, from Dickens to D. H., and am revisiting the world of the young Lawrence of Eastwood and Nottingham, as he struggled to make sense of the world around him. I've been reading John Worthen's D. H. Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider. Identifying with Lawrence, I've asked myself how different my life might have turned out to be if I'd never succumbed to the lure of literature, if my family hadn't left rural Oregon to return to Los Angeles, if I'd never continued with my education beyond high school.

I've just emerged from a lost weekend, too debilitated with pain from degenerative discs in my neck to clean house, weed the yard, attend to editing obligations. All I've managed is to sleep, eat and read. Consequently I've allowed myself to carry this book from room to room as I've fed the dogs, let the cats in and out, prepared shrimp creole and washed up after. My plans went awry, in a way I rarely allow them to do. I'd good intentions, but no. Instead I read, dozed on the sofa in the family room, read some more, dozed again, ate, read, dozed, read...and the weekend disappeared.

Today I'm anticipating a call soon from a local physical therapy department. I hope to learn some exercises to chase some of this pain away. In the meantime, I'm inspired by Lawrence's perseverance in tending to his writing and revising. Never mind that he spent a good deal of his life incapacitated by assorted ailments attributed to what, in those days, was called "a weak chest." Never mind that his truces with the women in his life never were long-lasting. Never mind that he teetered always on the brink of poverty. Lawrence took care of priorities: he wrote.

So today I'll revisit that neglected "to do" list, achy neck or no. Then tonight I'll finish the Lawrence biography.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I do...I've preordered for my Kindle Ruth Rendell's new psychological mystery, The St. Zita Society, to be released tomorrow. The cover contains a blurb from Stephen King, "Nobody surpasses Ruth Rendell when it comes to stories of obsession, instability and malignant coincidence."

I've been reading Rendell's novels since 1975. When I recommend her to other mystery fans, I've frequently received negative feedback.

"Nobody behaves like her characters," many claim. "Her plots and characters simply are unbelievable."

No? Having just reread Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, not-so-loosely based on the author's early romantic attachments, I'm not so convinced. That novel reflects those very qualities that King attributes to Rendell. Look at the life of its protagonist, Paul Morel. Obsession? Instability? Malignant coincidence? Think of his mother, his indecision when it comes to the relationship with Miriam, and lastly...meeting Clara, all, of course, mirroring actual events of Lawrence's life.

Perhaps some themes indeed are universal...and timeless.

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