lady chatterley's plover

One beautiful Pacific Northwest summer, a friend of mine and I spent a few days at a camping resort on an island in Washington State. We took long walks, cooked over a camp stove, meandered in a canoe … and read. Neither of us had read D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, so we took it along and read it aloud to each other.

There we were, two bookish women, sitting around outdoors reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover. At some point, we got silly about it. No, we didn’t roll around in the pine needles reenacting scenes from the book. Instead, we pretended we were reading the book in an era when it was banned, and so needed to disguise the book’s cover to avoid being reported to the authorities (seriously, if you didn’t already think I was a nerd …).

Using a black pen, we artfully drew a soaring bird in the distance beyond Lady Chatterley’s gaze, and carefully added a capital “P” in front of the word “Lover” to create Lady Chatterley’s Plover. Voila! Our reading material was disguised against small-minded finger-pointers, transformed into a book about a woman and her bird. (Wait, was that less or more alarming to the book police?)

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Penguin Books published Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the U.K. in 1960 and was prosecuted for doing so. And they won. Their 1961 edition of the book included this publisher’s dedication:

“For having published this book, Penguin Books were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 at the Old Bailey in London from 20 October to 2 November 1960. This edition is therefore dedicated to the twelve jurors, three women and nine men, who returned a verdict of ‘Not Guilty’ and thus made D. H. Lawrence’s last novel available for the first time to the public in the United Kingdom.”

Because of Penguin Books and those twelve jurors and lots of other people who went out on a limb over many decades to fight for freedom of the written word, you can now write and share pretty much whatever you want to.

What are you waiting for?

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Related reading: threshhold guardians, how to fall in love with yourself

 

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