I know, it's been a while since I've done one of these, hasn't it? I've just been having so much fun there's not much time to be thoughtful! Today I wanted to review a book Dad and I just finished: Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence.
This is the first D.H. Lawrence book I've ever read, and I've got to say I am less than impressed. I was looking forward to it because 1) Lawrence has a sordid history in... well, history; 2) He is an English writer whose influences meld the pastoral and manners/gentry genre-- a sort of love-child between Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen; and 3) It's always interesting to see what other cultures consider risque and/or salacious. I was sorely disappointed, however.
The story is of Paul Morel and his family. His father is an illiterate, coarse coal miner and his mother is a lady who married beneath her. So, when she discovers that her life is a good deal less satisfying than she desires, she attempts to live vicariously through her children (first through the eldest William and then Paul). This causes a very enmeshed relationship to develop between the boys and their mother, especially Paul, since he is a "sensitive artist" type. The book is divided into two halves. The first concerns itself with the early married life of Mr. and Mrs. Morel, up to the point when William leaves the family picture. The second half concerns itself with the many loves of Paul Morel, and the moderately unsettling triangles which develop between Paul, his mother, and his girl du jour.
The number one reason why I didn't like it was the writing style. Lawrence's characters would feel more at home in Dostoevsky, since they are all histrionic and capricious. Unfortunately, Lawrence cannot approximate the poetic beauty of Dostoevsky; he cannot even rise to poignant tragedy like Thomas Hardy. I think it might be because Lawrence's characters seem to have no raison d'etre: they are just plain wierd. Or at least, Lawrence doesn't do a good enough job of explaining and rationalizing Paul Morel's inner struggles between his love for his women and his love for his mother. It is just bold-facedly stated: Paul will never marry while his mother lives. End of story. Or perhaps it is that I find the Oedipus construct to be a fair explanation of possible unconscious processes but a failure as an adequate explanation for actual life choices. In any case, I haven't the faintest idea why either Clara or Miriam would have any abiding interest in Paul. In many ways, a good book is like a good movie: it does more than tell you to care for the characters, it actually finds ways to make you do so. I just couldn't care less what happened to Paul because I couldn't understand his motivations, I felt sorry for the women he loved but was baffled why they put up with him, and I alternately pitied and despised Mrs. Morel for her passive-agressive behaviors and selfish machinations.
All in all, the experience was certainly not pleasant, but that is not why I read books. I read them to gain insight into the variety of human life and human thought. Goodness knows there's plenty of that to be had! All you humans out there are an odd bunch: you have an overabundance of self- and other-awareness, but you can use it in such strange ways. Or you just don't use it at all. I give up. I'm going back to my bowl of food.
3 weeks ago