12 July 2010

49. D.H. Lawrence, WOMEN IN LOVE

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.


Wade Garrett said...

I loved both Catch-22 and Midnight's Children. Loved. As in, top 20 or so favorite books I've ever read.

Sycorax Pine said...

Most entertaining of the remaining books? I, Claudius and Passage to India.

Wade Garrett said...


Ellen said...

Pour of Tor, I own both of those, so excellent. I enjoyed the other Forsters on the list, so especially looking forward to A PASSAGE TO INDIA.

W.G., I have started both of them before, but not finished. Uh... Are we not friends anymore?

the madwoman said...

It seems we share similar literary tastes so I will go ahead and de-lurk to weigh in on your next ML read. (To wit, I too love The House of Mirth but am far less keen on the collected works of Ole Josef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski.) Now then...

The Magus is a phenomenal, engrossing novel and really a perfect summer read: a thick tomb with a fast-paced plot that will keep you turning those pages. I read it over three days and nights on a beach holiday, and I could not sleep for three nights after that. It will definitely pull you in so is not something you'd want to read on DailyLit.

I also recommend Pale Fire, although a big chunk of it is a narrative poem which makes it more time-consuming to read and appreciate fully. As in Byatt's Possession, another of my favorites, the embedded text ultimately has a pretty terrific narrative payoff. (Sidenote: personally I would put Possession in the top 100 novels of the C20. McEwan's Atonement too. And Atwood's Blind Assassin. But I digress.)

The Magus and Pale Fire share some similar themes and I will be interested to read your reviews of these at times maddeningly ambiguous works. Unfortunately, other than those two, it looks like you're getting down to the "dregs" of the list... Not much else excites me except for the Henry James, and as much as I appreciate him, he must be taken in relatively small doses.

Marjorie said...

(Late post is late because I am just not caught up on the Internet right now...)

I just checked out the list--hadn't realized Powell's Dance series was on there (in its entirety!). I've been enthusing a lot about those books over at GoodReads but there's no denying that they take a LOT of time, and they're not suited to DailyLit...

To The Lighthouse is gorgeous, even if I haven't reread it and thus don't really understand it very well.

Ellen said...

The Madwoman, we DO have similar tastes: I would definitely consider POSSESSION and THE BLIND ASSASSIN for a revised list. (ATONEMENT we can debate about later.) I believe I have a copy of PALE FIRE around and your description of THE MAGUS is tantalizing, so thanks!

Marjorie, I have been following your reviews with interest. I actually read the first volume of DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME back in... 2003? but didn't follow up. I do think it's a cheater cheaterpants move to include a 10-book series as a single entry, buuuut that is a discussion for another time. And TO THE LIGHTHOUSE is another started-but-didn't-finish; maybe I should just go through and finish all of those.