Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Us Writers

'So,' I said to my sixth form today, 'what can you tell me about DH Lawrence?'

I was met with half a classful of blank stares and half a classful of avoiding eye-contact stares.

'Can one have an avoiding eye contact stare?' asks Mrs Pumphrey.
'One can if one is a shifty sixth former,' I say.

Well, it transpired that NONE of the sixth form could tell me anything about DH Lawrence except one who thought his name' rang a bell.' I'd like to say that it was my school lacking in its Literature teaching at KS4 that caused this hole in their knowledge, but half of the group come from other schools, so I think it's a general Kentish shortfalling.

'I give up!' I said, throwing my arms into the air in a melodramatic manner in order to convey 'despair' via the medium of Mexican wave. 'Call yourself Literature students and you've never heard of DH Lawrence?'

I was asking this because we have moved on from our study of Pride and Prejudice and The Yellow Wallpaper, and are having a break by looking at the exam poetry. Today, this included 'Piano' by aforesaid Lawrence-who-rings-a-bell. Mind you, yesterday we looked at 'anyone lived in a pretty how town' by e.e.cummings-who-knows-no-punctuation which is enough to stun many a brain cell, so p'raps the students were suffering a bit from that and wouldn't recognise the Queen even if she appeared in full regalia and said 'Hello...I'm the Queen.'

I persevered. 'Come on, people,' I said, in what I hoped was an encouraging and not threatening tone. 'You must have heard of a particularly famous book he wrote that got him into a lot of trouble and a court case?'

And then they began twenty questions, which, unfortunately started off with, 'What colour is your car?'
'Blue,' I said. 'Can we concentrate on Mr Lawrence, please?'
'Was it a book?'
I sigh. 'Yes.'
'Was it made into a film?'
'Was it about pianos?'
'Did he live at the same time as Shakespeare?'
'Was it about sex?'
'Yes!' I shouted, a little too enthusiastically.
'Karma Sutra!!' shouted Sara.
'What????' I said. I am disturbed that my sixth form seem to know about the Karma Sutra but not about Lady Chatterley's Lover.

I decided surrender was the best form of attack, and told them the whole sorry story. 'I think you should go and read about it for yourself,' I said. 'Knowing more about a writer's life will enhance your understanding of their work.'

But now I am not so sure. For if I stand by this assertion, then here is one writer (moi!) who, in the annals of time when scholars are studying the intricate details of Nearly King Jimbo (still available on Amazon/ Lulu and other good self-publishing sites), is going to come across as a mad bat with severe psychological problems and multiple-personality disorder.

I was talking to our school Reverend today. Actually, I'd popped in for a quick pray, having bumped into her at morning break as she was trying to flush the remains of her soup down the toilet which is never a good idea as our toilets have either a feeble flush or a flush worthy of Niagara falls and one can never be quite sure which one one is going to get. (NB Always put the lid down before flushing at our school - saves many an embarrassing sprayed trouser incident).

Anyway, I asked Rev if I could pop in after school, just to say a quick one for my Dad, because for some reason, 14 years down the line, I was feeling a bit out of sorts with the anniversary and needed a bit of a spiritual chit chat. And she was telling me about a diary she's been keeping since she became a Rev, and how people keep telling her she should publish it but she didn't know where to begin.

'They say everyone's got a book inside them waiting to get out, don't they?' she said.
'Yes,' said I. 'But sometimes you have to be careful what you allow to escape.'
And I told her about my conversation with the sixth form re: Lady Chatterley.
'Ah,' said the Rev, 'but then if Lawrence hadn't allowed it to escape from his imagination, and it hadn't come to court, then you wouldn't have the freedom to discuss hundreds of other texts with your students.'
'This is true,' said I, because I hadn't thought about it like that.

'And the moral of this story is?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Write what you like but always have a box of matches to hand,' I say.
'Good,' says Mrs P. 'Now perhaps you'd like to put those matches to better use and light the grill so I can toast some crumpets.'


Olly said...

And did you know that the verdict of 'not guilty' in the trial of Penguin Books for publishing Lady C, was given on our joint birthday? (it was my actual birthday, although I think my mother probably had other things on her mind at that time!)

Denise said...

I did not know this, Olly! But I furnished the sixth form with this knowledge during their last lesson and they were duly impressed I could give them the actual date!

Hope you are well!