Monday, November 19, 2012


A few brief excerpts from Jan Donley's story, "Blind"
and T. S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
available on my latest
Fortnightly Blog Post:
"There on the Edge of Autumn"

After having his manuscript of Sons and Lovers rejected, D. H. Lawrence exclaimed: "Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, belly - wriggling invertebrates, the miserable, sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulse - less lot that make up England today. God, how I hate them."

Now, I realize that publishers and copyright attorneys are not one and the same. Still, I have to wonder if Lawrence would approve of how difficult and costly it can be to obtain permission to quote from his work. It certainly was for me anyway, back in the late 20th Century, though times are quickly changing (e.g., "The Captain's Doll" ~ on line!).

When I came across Lawrence's outburst on a page of literary insults, I was struck by the irony of the literary establishment's initially rejecting -- only to now so fiercely protect -- his work. The issue also came up recently when writer Jan Donley told me of the difficulties she was having in placing her short story "Blind": "I have not posted it because I was trying to get it published, only to find out that I need permission from Eliot's publisher to use the quotations in the short story. Sigh."

I could certainly commiserate with Jan about the copyright requests. Getting those permissions was one of the most disedifying experiences with publishing my doll book (dissertation) 10 years ago. Some were so kind, but others . . . not so much! Can you guess who was the meanest and the most costly -- The D. H. Lawrence Trust. So it looks like a similar crowd of Dickensian attorneys must have control of Eliot's work as well.

Another irony that has stayed in my mind -- one of the easiest to deal with and at minimal cost was the Angela Carter Trust, even though Carter had died young (at age 51, in 1992) and left behind a child, who deserved and could no doubt use the profit from his mother's work for his own education -- but no one was asking that from Carter's readers. On the other hand, there were no living relatives in receipt of the D. H. Lawrence money -- just some rule - bound law firm holding his work hostage and extorting the reading public!

I shortened the Lawrence passages as much as possible (not easy, since his short story "The Captain's Doll" was the focus of an entire chapter), but even then it cost me $250. And even though I had a "real" publisher (Assoc. Univ. Presses), I was responsible for paying the copyright fees (thank goodness for the McCartney Foundation!).

I called one of my advisors to be sure that I wasn't being hoodwinked by the copyright people, and he said, no, it's heinous, but that's the way it's done, and just bite the bullet and pay up, frustrating though it is! Really, I ask myself, is that what T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence wanted? What would Jesus do, etc. etc. Still and all, I remain yours in scholarship, stumbling blocks and all!

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