UPDATE (20 minutes later): I got the articles. The second one is, indeed, online here. That was quick. Thanks KSM!
Yes, it’s just background for a story, at most likely to turn into a vaguely passing detail here and there, though I suspect the former article may factor into a discussion of Ian McDonald’s River of Gods/Cyberabad Days too. (McDonald is a citizen of Northern Ireland, which makes him about as “British” as R.H. Bruce Lockhart, a very proud Scotsman who bragged of having not a drop of English blood in him… it’s the discussion of Lockhart in the first article that explains my interest in it.)
Also, for those looking into Wells’ ideas on women, this is, er, interesting. (In the sense that depending whether you shine light through it on this side, or another side, you see different things in it.) A taste:
It is almost impossible to find any one with the capacity for writing sanely about women at the present day. If a man writes about women, in nine cases out of ten he ends by being sentimental, and in the tenth case he becomes hysterical. If a women writes about women, in nine cases out of ten it is because, being unhappy with her own male-folk, she sees only the intolerable side of existing sexual relationships: thus her work is vitiated by an unnatural and distorted view not only of man but of woman’s absolute need of man, if she is to enjoy life to the full of its possibilities. The tenth woman, like the tenth man, grows hysterical, because she has never had any healthy everyday relations with men at all.
Like this Mason fellow upon whose methodological ass Wells was gettin’ Medieval, there are some questions which deserve to be asked about Wells’ assumptions here. And while I’m not convinced he’s completely wrong–he was, it has been argued (though not unproblematically), not just an frequently unfaithful husband and “womanizer” but also a committed advocate for feminism–there’s a discomfiting echo in his lines of the old, tired assertion that “feminists are either frigid or crazy” or “just need to get laid.”
(And of course, he’s being all heteronormative here saying women need men too absolutely enjoy life to the fullest, but one would be shocked to see otherwise in a text dating to 1895, wouldn’t one?)
But he also says most men are crazy, and this is important. I think if one knows Wells’ life and contemporary social world a little better, as this reviewer suggests, one realizes that indeed the culture likely did drive large numbers of men and women crazy. Think of the sexual mores of the Victorian household, where enjoying sex with one’s spouse was apparently for many simply unthinkable, and one sees a recipe for marital disaster, mass frustration, anger, infidelity, pain, and yes, craziness on a mass scale. It’s much like the image we have of suburban life in the late 1950s, except without the sedatives for wives to medicate themselves beyond caring about their husbands’ inifidelities. I’m not talking about justifications, because I have no interest in justifying how Wells lived and his contemporaries lived, but simply about how people dealt–often not very constructively, but also without many alternative options–with the various frustrations and miseries they were born into.
(And I really do think we often deemphasize just how many of our fellow humans are crazy. It seems to me sometimes large numbers of them are. Statistics for beliefs in UFOs may not suffice as real evidence of this, but it is a start, if “crazy” means “dissociated from reality.”)
As for Terry Eagleton’s comments on Lynn’s book, and more egregiously on Wells himself, of whom, after painting a common though unflattering portrait of the man:
It is remarkable what penning a few science-fiction stories can do for a sparse-haired, anti-semitic runt.
… I cannot help but feel this is a cheap-shot from the self-important Eagleton. One doubts that Eagleton envies Wells’ sex life, if he read the book, for the image that emerges reading Shadow Lovers is that Wells was much more miserable for all of his “adventures.”
But there is the possibility of intellectual jealousy. Wells is, even now at the nadir of his fame, much more well-known and important to the intellectual history of the Western world than Eagleton shall ever be… warts, obsessions, libido and all, he was one of the most highly-respected intellectuals of his age, and political leaders in many countries made time for the man Eagleton, so snottily, dismisses as a “shopkeeper’s son from Bromley.” That he was, and Wells obviously had faults in his thinking, but he was also a powerhouse of his age.
And the apparently lowly genre of SF at which Eagleton sniffles, and to which Wells helped give birth (or re-birth, at least, in the English-speaking world) is an important part of how we arrived in the world that all of us–Eagleton and you and I alike–are lucky to be living in, lucky enough to be able to discuss these things online in, lucky enough to be able to argue about on a cell phone in. Wells’ particular visions of the future were, when presented as prognostications as he unfortunately did increasingly in later work, essentially blind alleys… even if, as is often claimed, he foretold the coming to atomic power, and even if, as he liked to remind people, he’d told us that airplanes and flight would revolutionize war. (But then, so did Kipling, and perhaps Michaelangelo, and others.)
But then, Wells had little to learn from (as we do today) about how SF rarely tells us the future, but instead prepares us to grapple and cope with it. As with Toffler’s Future Shock, the success of his later work (like the Outline of History–allegations of plagiarism and all– and like The Shape of Things to Come, and other late work) is not so much in the work itself, as in the waves it made in the world into which it was launched. And this is, of course, setting aside the non-SF work of Wells which, little as it appeals to most of us now, seems to have been extremely popular in its day. It’s no mere coincidence that one of the books R.H. Bruce Lockhart was given during his brief imprisonment in Russia was a translation of a novel by Wells.
Snipes aside, I have to admit that Eagleton is absolutely right in terms of the main axe he’s brought forth to grind here: I share his skepticism about all this prurient “academic” interest in authors’ private (and especially sexual) lives. In the case of Wells, Lynn’s and others’ interest happens to be quite useful to the particular bit of science-fiction I’m working on, and arguably with Wells it may give us something to say about his fiction and supposed “advocacy of feminism” also, but as general trend in literary scholarship it’s of questionable value.
The trend is, mind you, probably the final consequence of how poststructualism has led us away from the text, away from reading literature, to squabbling over how much of our own ideology and anxiety we can inject into anothers’ novel, how much fancy poststructuralist hokey-pokey we can dance around a text, how many mystifying bits of italicized argot we can muscle into the service of obfuscating what the critic means to tell us about the text being discussed.
(Which is usually as simple as, “Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is basically about anxieties related to futurity because of the disjunction of sex from reproduction, and now look at some examples of how certain metaphors and repetition are used to convey this…” This, at leasty, is my paraphrase of one long, obtuse, and pointlessly pun-laden video-accompanied clownish talk by a guest lecturer through which I ended up sitting, baffled, back in graduate school… the resultant–and it appears disturbingly distasteful–paper is not available online, which I think is probably good for the Internet actually, but it is discussed here.)
Then again, Eagleton seems to be making the error of seeing Shadow Lovers as an entry into literary criticism. Nothing I’ve seen in the book suggests that: it seems more an entry into the investigation of Wells as he was seen in his time, that is, as a major intellectual figure in the English-speaking world, whose utopian political ideals and private life were complexly intertwined, and difficult perhaps to reconcile or understand for those of us looking upon it a few generations down the line. It is about fictions, but they are the public, and personal, fictions of self-presentation undertaken by a public figure of days long gone. An equivalent book three-quarters of a century from now would likely not be about an author, because authors and books simply matter less to the public (and shape public discourse much less profoundly) now.
Um… anyway. I think I’ve left my original point far behind! Ah well. If anyone has those articles kicking around, or near at hand… I’d be much obliged, as it will save me a trip to some other university where I can get ’em. Thanks!