Saturday, November 20, 2010

Aimless Reading: The L's, Part 7.1 (D.H. Lawrence)

Lawrence, D.H.
Studies in Classic American Literature


Purchased at the late lamented Niagara Falls Outlet Mall Discount Book Store.

This is one of those books that I remember looking for in the pre-Amazon era and not being able to find. Someone had showed me Lawrence's famous depiction of Deerslayer and I went looking for the whole book. I couldn't find it in any book store and for whatever reason it wasn't available at the university library. I think it had been lost or stolen and never replaced.

A few years later, when I needed it for my oral exams, suddenly it was everywhere. They had it in the library, online, at the outlet mall. One of the great things about the internet era is that it makes so many books available again. There's almost nothing one can't find anymore. I guess the flip side of that is they are available because fewer and fewer people want them.

Ok, I just opened the book to find an excerpt and discovered all kinds of writing in it that is not my own. This means I did not buy it at the outlet mall, but rather online or at Rust Belt Books. I must have bought it online because I never intentionally buy books that are marked by others. This one is severely so. Blech. I hate that!

from Studies in Classic American Literature

from Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Novels

...The white man's mind and soul are divided between these two things: innocence and lust, the Spirit and Sensuality. Sensuality always carries a stigma, and is therefore more deeply desired, or lusted after. But spirituality alone gives the sense of uplift, exaltation, and 'winged life', with the inevitable reaction into sin and spite. So the white man is divided against himself. He plays one side of himself against the other side till it really is a tale told by an idiot, and nauseating.

Against this, one is forced to admire the stark, enduring figure of the Deerslayer. He is neither spiritual or sensual. He is a moralizer, but he always tries to moralize from actual experience, not from theory. He says: "Hurt nothing unless you're forced to." Yet he gets his deepest thrill of gratification perhaps, when he puts a bullet through the heart of a beautiful buck, as it stoops to drink in the lake. Or when he brings the invisible bird fluttering down in death, out of the high blue. "Hurt nothing unless you're forced to." And yet he lives by death, by killing the wild things of the air and earth.

It's not good enough.

But you have there the myth of the essential white America. All the other stuff, the love the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, a killer. It has never yet melted.

...True myth concerns itself centrally with the onward adventure of the integral soul. And this, for America, is Deerslayer. A man who turns his back on white society, A man who keeps his moral integrity hard and intact. An isolate, almost selfless stoic, enduring man, who lives by death, by killing, but who is pure white.

This is the very intrinsic-most American. He is at the core of all the other flux and fluff. And when this man breaks from his static isolation, and makes a new move, then look out, something will be happening.

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