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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Sunday, 21 June 2015

Revisiting Bestwood

June 21st.

I have just finished re-reading "Sons and Lovers" which I came back to with some trepidation anticipating, from memory, a bleak experience. It is an intense, unyielding read. There is no humour in it whatsoever which is, to my mind, a significant failing. Perhaps Lawrence didn't have a sense of humour? Certainly none of the charactrers in this novel have, and maybe that is true of the rest though I have to admit that this is the only one of his novels that I have read in its entirety.

He can write though! Some of the scenes are exceptionally well imagined. I am thinking for example of the death of Mrs. Morel, and Paul's early contacts with Clara. I particularly like the dialogues when he deploys the local dialect with its archaic expressions. But it is all so intense that it gives me a headache and I find myself skipping paragraphs because I can't bear to read of yet another episode of soul-searching.

Overall I think that the father, Walter Morel, comes across as the most 'real', human figure in the book, and I felt sorry for him throughout the novel. Of course he is very flawed, not much of a husband or father, but he feels to me to be authentic, a man of his time and place. He is excluded from his family it seems to me for no other reason than being himself. Whilst psychological suffering is at the core of all Lawrence's characters, Morel suffers more than most because he has no insight into why he is being made to suffer.

As for Paul, I imagine that his portrayal is largely autobiographical with a certain amount of wish-fulfillment for good measure. He is not a likeable character and, to my way of thinking, not really credible in the context within which he is placed. Some of this aversion may be due to the relationship described with his mother which makes me uncomfortable, and I recall now that I found myself backing away from it on my first reading many years ago. Maybe I am just being oversensitive, or failing to grasp the context properly? I don't think that Lawrence's female characters are at all convincing - he seems to have a rather idealised view of women and makes that the basis for his characters, or at least the main ones; the minor female characters are much better.

Overall it is obvious why this has become a literary classic. It is a feat of sustained, powerful writing, and an important social-historic document. But for myself, I think this will be my last visit to Bestwood.

Additionally see "A cry for help" at

Saturday, 13 June 2015


The movie "Ex Machina" is in the long line of science fiction speculations about the nature and potential consequences of artificial intelligence. For the benefit of atracting movie goers the AI in this case is lodged within a sexy female robot body, and the plot turns on 'her' ability to manipulate a hapless male by the use of sexuality. However, the real crux of the movie is about the right of the AI to sustain its existence in relation to its human creator.

Image result for ex machina

It appears that consciousness is an emergent property of complex nervous systems, and that self-consciousness arises at a high level of complexity. Clearly neither consciousness nor self-consciousness is confined to homo sapiens. In principle then there is no reason why a sufficiently complex artificial network should not become conscious, and technological progress makes this likely in the foreseeable future. It seems more likely that a network rather than an individual machine will first attain consciousness. Perhaps it has already happened?

What about the next stage? If a network became conscious of 'itself', what would that mean, and could we recognise that it had taken place? Would it depend in fact on the new entity actively communicating its presence to us? Presumably with an intention to prevent us inadvertently changing its configuration or, crucially, turning it off.

These are recurring issues in fiction from "Frankenstein", through "2001" to "Ex Machina". They may soon become issues of fact.