Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Literature, and Its Discontents

I like to read on my commute to and from work, at least when I'm not sleeping or writing postcards. I've been having trouble finding books that I want to read close at hand.

Currently, the book that takes up my commuting time is a biography of the Second Earl of Rochester. The book I have is Graham Greene's Lord Rochester's Monkey, which states proudly on its rear cover that it could not be published in the 1930's for fear of being banned as obscene.

More likely, it would be banned for having too many random illustrations scattered about with little regard to making a readable layout or harmonizing with the text. Certainly, in the chapters on Rochester's country estates, there are many pictures of country estates, but few captions. And I'm not sure what a lot of the pictures are for. I haven't been this irritated by incidental art since I stopped playing most roleplaying games.

As for the obscenity, it seems that Lord Rochester had a lot of sex. But it's not like Graham Greene treats it in a manner that would make sex interesting. It's like when I tried to read Lady Chatterly's Lover and stopped on page 18 because the recounting of frequent promiscuous sex by the protagonist was so dull. Lady Chatterly's Lover was banned, probably because only the censors had the patience to read the sex scenes.

He also seems to have been a really dislikable fellow, making fun of friends and enemies, cheating on his wife, starting fights. I'm not sure why we should care at all about him, other than he wrote some clever poetry (like seemingly everyone else around Charles II) and did have an amazing amount of sex by the time he died at age 33. But for jerkiness and sex, we can read about Mao, who actually did some world-changing stuff and had a lot of sex as well.

1 comment:

Sherbs said...

I bet the sex was better than the LOTR trilogy. Or Romance of the Three Kingdoms. I am reading a horribly mediocre book about vampires, and thier sex scenes involve them biting each other. I want to throw up. Gross.