Farewell, emo daffodils! This is without question the novel I enjoyed the least since I started this project. Granted, it wasn't racist like TOBACCO ROAD, but at least that was shorter. Okay, well it's a draw, and an uncomfortable draw.
Regular readers will have seen this coming with updates like five passages that made me roll my eyes and the Emo Daffodil Alert. Here is my struggle with regard to Mr. Lawrence: He's influenced so many writers I like in his obsession with the interiority, in his single-minded focus on the struggle inside the mind. His fingerprints are all over other books I've read and loved. And there are some passages in WOMEN IN LOVE that are truly moving... when taken out of context. Those passages, however, serve to buttress a tedious and uninteresting narrative, the story of two sisters struggling to overcome their bourgeois upbringings through Free Love with two men who, while not even close to the most homoerotic pair in literature, are by and large closer to each other than to the women with whom they are in love.
When I read SONS AND LOVERS, my first exposure to Lawrence, I struggled but with the sense that my intellectual and emotional problems with the book were somehow purposeful -- that upon further reflection I would recognize Lawrence's genius. Rereading it for a class on the modernist novel in college reinforced that feeling. Maybe it's because in the intervening years I have drifted away from academic reading (as a result of not having to do it) but I feel that I lack some essential patience with it now. I have gone over to where I can say "Yeah, but so many authors have done it better since then -- what's the use?"
In efforts to convey emotional truth among his characters, Lawrence elevates every single moment among them to eleven, forcing the narrator to play teenager's diary with their internal conflicts. I posted and laughed at this passage about Rupert and Gerald's relationship before I realized that would be one of the more restrained moments. Everyone in this book sounds like a person Philip Carey drinks with in Paris in OF HUMAN BONDAGE -- only he eventually leaves Paris. (To bring up another ML book, for a second I thought longingly about how Arnold Bennett wrote an entire novel about women without ever talking about their feelings. And I didn't even like that portrayal either.) This novel was published after the Maugham, but still feels like a step backward.
This book did, however, furnish fodder for my never-forthcoming monograph on how Lawrence killed Sylvia Plath, at which point this blog will become a dry promotional machine directed at forcing you to buy it. Given that she hadn't even been born when he died, this seems impossible, but it's not, and my Work of Brilliance will convince you that in fact he is a murderer. I'll be a freakonomist, but for literature!
Ellen VS. ML: 52 read, 48 unread.
Next up: I've started #85 LORD JIM on Dailylit, because otherwise I'll never finish the Conrad section of this venture -- that's the third of his four slots, which seems excessive. But I'd like to open it up to suggestions. Is there a non-crossed out book on this list that you loved and you can't believe I haven't read yet? I need to pick up steam if I'm going to finish this before I am 100.
4 hours ago