By D.H. Lawrence.
Whom I have always irrationally associated with Lawrence of Arabia. Giving rise to all sorts of absurd and convoluted images and associations, which I hope to lay to rest with this first novel of his. The Plumed Serpent! What an evocative name, and what an evocative cover, a detail from The Market at Tenochitlan by Diego Riviera. I refused to read the blurb on the back, and thus, knowing absolutely nothing about Mr. Lawrence or his works, cracked it open.
I’ve reached page 80 thus far, and may manage to delve deeper in before the night is through, but its slow going due to my fickle attention span and the demanding nature of Lawrence’s writing. Not that he is abstruse or anything, but simply that he deserves a slow and liesurely read, during which can delectate his fabulous descriptions.
For that is what has stood out already: his absolutely delicious and sumptuous and sensual descriptions of anything and everything, from the light to the people to goring by a bull of a horse’s stomach. The kind of descriptions that beg to be savored, for each word to be tasted on the tip of the tongue before one moves onto the next. For example:
Below her window, in the bricks and fallen rubble of unfinished masonry, a huge white turkey-cock, dim-white, strutted with his brown hens. And sometimes he stretched out his pink wattles and gave vent to fierce, powerful turkey-yelps, like some strong dog yelping; or else he ruffled all his feathers like a great, soiled white peony, and chuffed, hissing here and there, raging the metal of his plummage.
They were slipping out past the clay-coloured, loose stony edges of the land, through a surge of ripples, into the wide white light of the lake. A breeze was coming from the east, out of the upright morning, and the surface of the shallow, flimsy, dun-coloured water was in motion. Shoal-water rustled near at hand. Out to the open, large, square white sails were stepping gingerly forward, and beyond the buff-coloured, pale desert of water rose far-away blue, sharp hills of the other side, many miles away, pure pale blue with distance, yet sharp-edged, and clear in form.
There is a delightful contrasting within his descriptions, a clashing of disparate elements and descriptions that somehow work: raging the metal of his plummage; pale desert of water; square white sails were stepping.
These contrasts work, work unbelievably well, summoning the sense, the feel of what he is trying to describe, even while they contradict each other. Delightful!
The only element that continuously snags my eye and causes me to frown is a perhaps understandable 1920’s bias towards certain race theories and so on in regards to the Indians, the Europeans, the mixing of blood and so forth. I’m still well within the first 80 pages, however, and am hoping that the opinions expressed thus far are subjective, belonging to the characters, and not objectively that of the author. I’ll see, I suppose, if they change as I progress, as Kate progresses.
(Even so, you can’t fault an author for espousing the beliefs of his time. At least, I don’t, but I’m always heartened by avant-garde liberalism!)