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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

8 Responses to “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

  1. meganeshounen Says:

    There are people who have noticed some of the exaggerated actions in Death Note… as if it need more drama that it already had… Ah well.

    And really now, anime is a good medium for showing intellectually sound morals and ideas… but it still has its own limits. Even if those limits are about the art style and whatnot. There’s still that line that separates real life from still/animated life.

    Also, in b4 Ghost in the Shell. 😀

  2. DrmChsr0 Says:

    No megane, in b4 Cowboy Bebop/Haa Roo Hay/true tears.

    Personally, I thought Ergo Proxy was overly pretentious. From the first episode. Death Note, on the other hand, I have no coments, save for the memes it spawned.

    I did notice the same things you speak of in School Days. It wasn’t just the main 3, the rest of the cast were enamored by his promiscuity.

    Seriously, Mike, go read some of the spoilers for Summer Days. Makoto gets his comeuppance. :3

  3. Ryan A Says:

    Wow, it’s sound like you vs Lawrence was a battle. I’ll probably be staying away from these titles 🙂

    I feel like I’ve forgotten how to ride a bicycle….

  4. Michael Says:

    Sorry for the belated replies. I had to still deal with a lot of things.

    @meganeshounen

    It wasn’t that the drama was exaggerated; I simply believe that the mangaka didn’t end it timely. The fact that anime paints another world distances itself, as a medium, from us. I think the words that are read and understood from novels and stories are also the things that bring us closer to them: the fact that we utilize our own imaginations and understanding to paint their imagery takes it closer to ourselves more.

    @Drm

    I thought Ergo Proxy was utterly pretentious, too. However, it took me much longer to realize that. As for Death Note, I had fun early on, but then I realized how much protracted it had become.

    I will do, Drm. Thanks for the heads-up.

    @Ryan

    It was quite a battle, alright. He wasn’t interesting for the most part but I vowed to myself that I was going to conquer at least one of his works. Your mileage may vary with regard to his more recognized works, but stay away from The White Peacock. It wasn’t a total waste of time, but it was overly descriptive without much character development.

    Bicycle … ?

  5. mellow_bunny Says:

    I can’t say I have a smart or intelligent comment on your post mike. But I really did enjoy your retelling of your experiences with Mr Lawrence.

    Oh btw… ERGO PROXY -_- it annoyed the hell out of me. I really liked what I saw of it, but it could have had more boobs and action imo. The most memorable scene I have from that show is when Mr Big Scary dude busts into her bathroom (or bedroom can’t remember) and stops like inches from her face. THAT would be a wicked scene done in live action.

  6. Runningkid Says:

    hoho, ditto @ mellow’s comment.

    I think how “intellectual” a series is really how serious it takes itself, of course how clever it actually is, is another matter. lol

  7. TheBigN Says:

    You know, I feel that this article could have been a bit shorter, yet still had the main point involved (like the whole School Days bit, and even some of your intro). But that’s more of an ironic “neither here nor there” point, and being guilty of that sort of thing myself, I can’t really complain about it. 😛

    For me, as long as things remain interesting (and that differs from person to person), it doesn’t matter how long it can take something to get to the point. For example, I would’ve loved Death Note more if there wasn’t as much convoluted planning involved. Sometime it worked out (JUST AS PLANNED), but most of the time a lot of it just felt unnecessary.

    And I always thought that something “intellectual” made you think, and not in the “what the hell did they just say” sense. Oh god Ghost in the Shell: Innocence. 😛

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