“What,” I wondered, “does that British pornographer have to say about American literature?”
In his Student’s Guide to U.S. History, Wilfred M. McClay assembled a list of 26 books and called them “An American Canon.” I was acquainted with most of them (Democracy in America, The Federalist, Moby Dick, etc.), but four were new to me, including D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature.
“What,” I wondered, does that British pornographer have to say about American literature?”
For decades I’ve subscribed to the doctrine of connaturality: distorted living creates distorted thinking. If a person’s life is ruled by passion, his of her thinking will be distorted by passion. For the sexually illicit, for instance, sex is king . . . or at least a queen (and maybe bishop, if you’re Episcopalian). The sexually-illicit don’t think clearly about sex because they’re ruled by sex.
So I didn’t think the Chatterley dude would have a whole lot to say about the United States, especially since he was from Britain.
I was wrong. His book is strong, filled with wise and novel (and funny . . . bonus) observations, like this: “But to try to know any living being is to try to suck the life out of that being. . . It is the temptation of a vampire fiend.”
He says some stupid things, too, but he makes many observations about American life that rank with de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Chesterton’s What I Saw in America, and Santayana’s Character and Opinion in the United States.
… Read the rest
When America set out to destroy Kings and Lords and Masters, and the whole paraphernalia of European superiority, it pushed a pin right through its own body, and on that pin it still flaps