Friday, July 10, 2009

Fightin' words

Over at the Second Pass, the editors have assembled a post calling out canonical novels that they can't stand. The contributors issue merciless beatdowns to ten novels, from Victorian classics (A Tale of Two Cities) to recent sensations (The Corrections).

As should be the case in a fight-picking post such as that one, the writing is at its best when it hits a novel you instinctively want to defend, but suddenly, cringingly, find you can't. Like D. H. Lawrence's The Rainbow, about which I have many fond memories, but about which the anonymous contributor writes,
The book was yanked [from circulation] for ostensibly racy sex, but you won’t find much of that here. Instead, much of what it contains — redundant, stultifyingly interior, almost eventless — is reminiscent of nothing so much as the things an English prof endures on the way to getting into a sensitive student’s pants: the gushing, the journal reading, the unedited first drafts. Viz:
She could be very happy. And she wanted to be happy. She resented it when he made her unhappy. Then she could kill him, cast him out. Many days, she waited for the hour when he would be gone to work. Then the flow of her life, which he seemed to dam up, was let loose, and she was free. She was free, she was full of delight. Everything delighted her.
But . . . but . . . I sputter--then I find myself wondering whether the one novel that I had believed good enough to transcend the humorless self-importance that suffuses Lawrence's every word may actually be just as purple and melodramatic as the rest.

I was, after all, merely nineteen years old when I read it: some people, at that age, fall for Bukowski; others of us, nerdier, fall for Lawrence. {And, in the spirit of the Second Pass's post, I can't help but point out that at least us Lawrentians get over him eventually . . . }

Go check out the list, then register your complaints and/or approbation in their comments section.

1 comment:

  1. Good link! I only skimmed through, but I have to laugh, certainly it hits a couple points I feel strongly about too: I HATE _White Noise_, for very much the reasons given there, and did not read _The Road_ because of my clear conviction that a novel in which a baby is roasted and eaten would make me want to laugh in a way the author clearly did not intend!