Brevity is the soul of wit.
David Herbert Lawrence was a polarizing figure. Some deem him one of the greatest 20th century novelists, while others disdain his allusive and sensual style. I was never a fan of him or his writings. I had heard all about him from my father and from a professor of mine in literature (she remains to be one of my close friends, even until now). She talked about Sons and Lovers tangentially in a discussion regarding some of his poetry, and mentioned it as a modern rendition of Oedipus Rex. Intrigued, I borrowed the book from a library. However, I was bored to sleep even at the very first chapter: that did not bode well, because even supposed notoriously difficult works like The Sound and the Fury and The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man were not soporific to me. I stopped reading that, and promised myself to try another one of his works in the future.
As I was saying …
About a year ago, I remembered Mr. Lawrence once again. Having found a hardbound copy of The Rainbow, I felt that the aesthetic properties of the binding and the novel would win me to him. Indeed, for the first few days, it seemed so. I had read about 50 pages of the elephantine novel. I had to deal with more pressing schoolwork, however, and I thus simply forgot about it until it was almost time to renew the novel (since I borrowed it from the library). By that time, though, my interest was elsewhere, and I just deemed my second attempt in completing a Lawrence novel as a failure.
With the failures (primarily perhaps because of Lawrence’s novels-cum-sleeping-pills), I simply forgot about Lawrence altogether. However, the ugly specter of his novels were unrelenting. One of his novels again appeared to me, in a book sale supported by the literature society in our university. It was The White Peacock, and it was placed in the bargain bin (is this a testament to the powers of Lawrence?). With my failures in the past, I never intended to purchase the novel initially, but there was a raffle (one had the chance of winning a Moleskine notebook), and in the closing hour of the book sale they gave out a raffle coupon for every book purchased. Before that final hour one had to purchase a specified minimum amount which was quite expensive (especially for a university student like me). Since there were few books left to choose from, I simply bought the novel. Even though I disliked Lawrence, I still could not deny his impact on the world of literature.
A personal vow accompanied this purchase of mine: come hell or high water, I was going to finish the novel. That was roughly a month ago. For about two weeks I read only 140 pages, but that was a significant improvement over his previous works. I only remembered that vow after I woke up today; within roughly 12 hours I finally finished the novel and fulfilled my personal vow.
A white peacock?
The White Peacock was a simple story. I would argue that the majority of its story lay in its final 70 pages, with the first 250 pages as a superfluity of descriptions. At its heart, it was a tragedy of disillusionment and misdirected love. Lawrence, however, had to waste a significant number of pages just to describe how beautiful the fields were, or the old mill was for the characters. While this is not much of a problem in anime (anime is viewed, not read), the problem of trying to make simple things more complex have been seen time and again in some of the anime shows that could have been so much more.
In terms of construction, Ergo Proxy is a veritable example. One is fooled into thinking something to occur within the next ten episodes with the explosive start of the series. It dragged on, however, because it tried to be too intelligent for its own good. While I loved the references to Lacan and Husserl and Descartes, these did not contribute much to the story. It also had the Mickey Mouse episode which made me just totally give up on the series. It was supposed to be a series of realizations and growth; in the end, just like The White Peacock, it was a tragedy of disillusionment and misdirected love only because my love was misdirected towards the utter absurdity of this series instead of series which were more worth my time and more deserving of it. Mickey Mouse is never a good ingredient in supposedly serious series. It is akin to asking a clown say mass.
I got this image from my old blog. Really.
To some extent, even Death Note was victim of this. I believe that if the mangaka ended the series at the death of L, the series will have some sense of closure: Kira remains to be the demigod, and has the intelligence and the wit to back it up. However, because it was extended, it seemed affected. The appearance of L’s replacements was quite superfluous. (I disliked the mangaka’s more or less traditional ending for the anti-hero. While I do appreciate the death of Kira, in the real world not every murderer is punished. Not every evil is rectified.)
With regard to storytelling, the novel reminded me of that seminal (if only because of its shock value) series School Days. The two primary characters of the novel fall victim to the atrophy of their hearts primarily because of their own actions or lack of it. Makoto was undone because of his promiscuity and his lack of self-discipline (somewhat like George in the novel); Kotonoha was undone because of her lack of self-confidence and the will to act (somewhat like Lettie), and finally Sekai was undone because of her extreme passions (like Annable, a minor character). With that, Annable had the most memorable and vitriolic line: ‘civilization was the painted fungus of rottenness.’
I guess if Lawrence and Dai Sato thought about that statement, they wouldn’t have written as badly: if civilization was a ‘painted fungus of rottenness,’ what more its extreme?