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Amber Paulen

Waiting and D.H. Lawrence's Sentences

I stand corrected: We are no longer waiting! Yesterday, Simon’s waiver of inadmissibility was approved! We will be moving to New York City around December or January!

As I sit in Rome waiting to hear back from the USCIS — their yay or nay being the single hurdle that is keeping me away from being in school in the States—I’m writing and reading as per usual. I’m trying not to be distracted by this waiting, though it does distract me and send me into a despondency where hope turns to doubt returns to hope. I try to block it out, it comes back, I try to forget about it again. (If only we could get answer soon. But what if it comes too late? Should I just count on moving to New York City in January? But what if there is no answer?—just the usual stomach-dropping doubts inflicted by the American immigration system.)

I block it out. I read. I read Geoff Dyer’s Another Great Day at Sea, my friend Kaushik’s Windhorse and Murakami’s latest Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I’m reading D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow for the second time. D.H. Lawrence. I don’t remember anything from my first reading—I think I simply absorbed the book totally and then followed it by his Women in Love. What I hope I will remember after this reading are the three relationships described in their early days of love and how one couple eventually gives way to another. The cycle of nature that D.H. Lawrence was so obsessed with. His meticulous descriptions of the physical and spiritual relationships between male and female are probably the longest in novel history. Their coming together and their moving apart, a dance that captured Lawrence’s fascination.

But what gives me the most pleasure are Lawrence’s sentences and how his sentences with their repetitions string throughout a paragraph. I have written about sentences before here and here, but I haven’t read Lawrence’s for a while. He is the writer for me who sustains the rhythm of each line and each line brought into the whole the best. His books are the ones I would turn to if I needed a pick-me-up for my prose, as Francine Prose suggests writers do in her book Reading Like a Writer.

For a very saturated example:

They took the udder of the cows, the cows yielded milk and pulse against the hands of the men, the pulse of the blood of the teats of the cows beat into the pulse of the hands of the men.

And for the stringing together of words within sentences and then paragraphs:

And it was so good, it was very, very good. She seemed to be filled with his kiss, filled as if she had drunk strong glowing sunshine. She glowed all inside, the sunshine seemed to beat upon her heart underneath, she had drunk so beautifully.

She drew away, and looked at him radiant, exquisitely, glowingly beautiful, and satisfied, but radiant as an illumined cloud.

To him this was bitter, that she was so radiant and satisfied. She laughed upon him, blind to him, so full of her own bliss, never doubting but that he was the same as she was. And radiant as an angel she went with him out of the church, as if her feet were beams of light that walked on flowers for footsteps.

These three paragraphs, chosen at random, seem to form a braid of images. The glow of Ursula is conveyed so strongly so that when the description of Anton comes in the following paragraph, where he is stark and bitter for having been triumphed over (the women in Lawrence are often the stronger in the physical relationship), it seems very bleak indeed. And this pattern keeps up for the entire book—both in theme and in structure.

These sentences are perhaps the best thing to be reading in these uncertain times. They calm me, draw me in and give me the hope that eventually all this will lead to something, an ending, at least, to this waiting.


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