The best books we read in 2016


Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence


I’ll be honest: I expected to hate Sons and Lovers. I wanted to finally read D.H. Lawrence for the first time, but a 19th century novel about a young man who is emotionally stunted by his overbearing mother sounded far too pseudo-Freudian for my taste. But I was surprised to find that within the first fifty pages, all of the characters were meticulously drawn at a nearly Jamesian level of psychological nuance, and that the “overbearing mother” was the most sympathetic and fascinating character of the piece. Sons and Lovers is, ostensibly, the story of a young man’s coming-of-age, but really, it’s a story about the fallibility of family bonds, in which they are as fragile yet sticky as strands in a spider web.

Acquired: at a flea market in Iceland, where Sons and Lovers was the only Lawrence novel they had. Continue reading →

William Styron’s Appropriation

“‘Have you read D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover?’ I had to say no.

…’Read it,’ she said, her voice husky and intense now, ‘get it and read it, for the sake of your salvation… Lawrence has the answer–oh, he knows so much about fucking. He says that when you fuck, you go to the dark gods.'”

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron is more sensitive and vividly characterized than I would have expected, but is still a manipulative, politically problematic story that appropriates the Holocaust narrative to create slightly sickly melodrama. By explicitly framing the titular “Choice” (made by a blonde Polish woman, because Styron legitimately thought the Jews were paid too much attention) as the “ultimate evil,” the novel is clearly attempting to meditate on the concept of evil, but only manages to sensationalize it. Continue reading →