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Plumed Serpent (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – December 5, 1999

3.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David Ellis is the author of Lawrence's Non-Fiction: Art, Thought and Genre and Wordsworth, Freud and the Spots of Time. He has been commissioned to write Volume HI of the New Cambridge biography of Lawrence.

Cedric Watts is an authority on Joseph Conrad and the author of numerous books and articles on Conrad including Joseph Conrad: A Literary Life (1989), A Preface to Conrad (2nd edition 1993), and Joseph Conrad (1994).
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Product Details

  • Series: Wordsworth Classics
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New edition edition (December 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853262587
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853262586
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #767,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I've read nearly all of Lawrence's novels; Plumed Serpent is rather different than the others. The language, syntax, and phrasing in PS is not so definitively the authorial voice of a cultured Englishman. In PS, the two male characters are charismatic Mexicans; the female surging between these two strong men is an Irish woman transplanted to early 20th Century Mexico. The language is very Americanized here, even though none of the characters are USA-Americans, while DHL makes much of Mexico being American -- as in "the American continent" -- and not European.

DHL clearly was wary, perhaps even frightened, of Mexicans and what he repeatedly refers to, ominously, as their "black, center-less eyes." For DHL this meant it was impossible to know what the Mexicans were thinking, or feeling, if they were (or weren't) in fact doing either. I doubt that this novel, were it new, would be published today: it would be pronounced racist and Feminists would deem it misogynistic, as the strong, independent female protagonist seems really just need to be sexually overpowered by dark, native men. (One might want to recall that a close American friend of DHL and Freda, the white female artist Mabel Dodge, who gave Freda a ranch near Taos, New Mexico, married a local New Mexican native American Indian--Red Indian, in the words of DHL.) When the book was originally published, the controversy was about it being Fascist. It is most certainly anti-Catholic. This being DHL, male skin is well in evidence, of course, in this case brown rather than pale white.

There is a fair amount of Mexican native-Indian-gods-worshiping DHL poetry, if you like that sort of thing; if not, it is easy to skip over; it's man-cave kind of mumbo jumbo, though beautiful too.
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Format: Paperback
In the area of the poetic use and the beauty of the English language, this book is well-written and certainly worthy of one's time taken in reading it. The language and the imagery invoked is breath-taking. In the area of subject matter, it is rather unique. An Irish woman journeys to Mexico just after the Mexican Revolution and becomes involved with two men who have taken it upon themselves to return Mexico to the religion of Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopochtli. She joins them to become the First Woman of Malintzi and wife of the First Man of Huitzilopochtli. However, in the area of social language, the book is a product of its time. The Mexican people -- and all "dark" people -- are the objects of particularly malignant language, which I found objectionable. As an historian, I can place the book in its proper perspective, however, and recommend it as a good read.
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Lawrence is a great artist who wrote some very bad books and this is one of them, possibly his worst novel, apart from his juvenilia.

The prose is excellent, the yarn is not awful, but the vision it conveys is distressing, particularly when you consider that he never wrote another novel before his untimely death in 1930.

Though WOMEN IN LOVE and THE RAINBOW are among the world's greatest novels, you begin to think after reading a lot of Lawerence that he wasn't really a natural novelist. He praised the form as man's greatest "invention", he called it "the bright book of life", he judged that the novelist, unlike other writers, "gets the whole hog" ... but non-fiction, especially his literary criticism, may have been his true metier.

And you can't discount his "prophetic" role, tasteless as his "message" sometimes seems (as in the novel under review). FANTASIA OF THE UNCONSCIOUS and the posthumous PHOENIX 1 & 2 are magnificent.

Maybe the true but modest conclusion is that the life of Lawrence is what really matters, that his books are secondary to the man, although the only way we can know anything about him is through his books. The memories of others, including Frieda, are too contradictory and fragmentary to make his visions palable, ditto the biographies. Reading his works of every kind, from novels to short stories to essay to travel books to letters, without pigeon-holing him is the best way to understand him, I'd say, and understanding him is something worth doing.
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Although one hesitates to give any book by D. H. Lawrence two stars, in this case I must. The Plumed Serpent is no Son's and Lovers. This late Lawrence book is filled with long-winded, pretentious and repetitive passages of ersatz Aztec religious claptrap and equally ill-conceived mysticism about the savage Mexican Indian as a race. Couple these with a sort of proto-fascism, and one has a pretty nasty book. Lawrence's take on gender relations in this world of neo-Aztec revival is equally unattractive. At the same time, there are the descriptive passages of great lyric beauty that are pure Lawrence and some earnest wrestling with questions of individualism versus the commonality of humankind. I didn't like the book, but I'm glad I read it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was one strange book though I guess nobody would accuse the author of writing garden variety literature. This is set in Mexico in a rural area not an unreasonable distance from the capital. Expatriates learn about the country and one stays as others leave. As she starts a life in a more remote area, certain prominent local citizens decide to bring back the ancient Aztec gods and goddesses. There is some philosophy, some religious observance, some adventure and so on. It was quite interesting, perhaps more interesting than most of Lawrence's writing but it is unusual and a little improbable. I am glad I read it. It was on Kindle for a reasonable price.
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