Four letter words.

I just acquired an audiobook of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  (Read by Emilia Fox, and released by CSA Word). I’m intrigued by the summary on the back of the recording, which reveals nothing of the plot or characters, but recounts, instead, details of the censorship trial “when Penguin were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act […] largely on account of its explicit scenes of a sexual nature and use of four-letter words.”

Gaurav and I had fun walking in the bookstore, trying to guess what words those might be: 0ne of them, we think, might have been discussed at length in an article we read on Twelfth Night for today.[i]

Yet I wonder about the publisher’s choice of marketing for this book: are hordes of people still buying Lawrence (and spending extra money for the dubious privilege of having him on disc) for the possibility of “four letter words” and “scenes of a sexual nature”?

Apparently yes, but readers are also not willing to admit to the fact.  After outlining the book’s provocative qualities for a few paragraphs, the summary hastily defends the book as a “literary masterpiece [that] is about much more than sex.”  Beyond a few general themes (“love,” “class,” and “politics”) in the last fifteen words of the summary, however, the criteria for the book’s “masterpiece” status remains elusive.

Review to follow.

End Notes:

[i] Twelfth Night today. Callaghan’s “Body Politics and Twelfth Night.”  (1996): “At that literal, textual level, we never do know why there is a ‘CU[N]T’ in Twelfth Night.”

5 February 2009 ~ St. Catharines

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