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IN BRIEF

March 21, 1993|CHRIS GOODRICH

LAWRENCE AND THE WOMEN: The Intimate Life of D.H. Lawrence by Elaine Feinstein (HarperCollins: $27.50; 268 pp.). If there's a writer who all but begs to be viewed through the women in his life, it's D.H. Lawrence: his mother Lydia, a strong-willed woman who dominated her coal-miner husband; his early girlfriends, whom Lawrence attempted to dominate in turn; novelist Katherine Mansfield, once called "a reptile" by Lawrence during an epistolary quarrel; Mabel Dodge Luhan, whose patronage in Taos proved a mixed blessing; and of course Lawrence's wife Frieda, on whom the writer, according to Aldous Huxley, was "physically dependent, as one is dependent on the liver in one's belly." Elaine Feinstein, a British novelist and biographer, is remarkably non-judgmental about Lawrence--her one agenda seems to be to overturn the '70s feminist attacks on the writer--making "Lawrence and the Women" an evenhanded, informative read. Feinstein's manner is easy, which for the most part is good; it also causes problems, however, for although she makes her central point well, that Lawrence feared powerful omen, the reader is left wanting a more complex analysis. Attempting both to examine Lawrence's work and to delineate his life in the course of a relatively short book, Feinstein ends up scanting both. "Lawrence and the Women" works as an introductory text, though, mainly because the Lawrences' relationship is endlessly absorbing--because it was always a question, as Lawrence put it in one letter to Frieda, of "Who is going to swallow whom?"

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