Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence
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FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD
"In the spirit of Julian Barnes's Flaubert's Parrot and Alain de Botton's How Proust Can Change Your Life, Mr. Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage keeps circling its subject in widening loops and then darting at it when you least expect it . . . a wild book."--Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
Geoff Dyer was a talented young writer, full of energy and reverence for the craft, and determined to write a study of D. H. Lawrence. But he was also thinking about a novel, and about leaving Paris, and maybe moving in with his girlfriend in Rome, or perhaps traveling around for a while. Out of Sheer Rage is Dyer's account of his struggle to write the Lawrence book--a portrait of a man tormented, exhilarated, and exhausted. Dyer travels all over the world, grappling not only with his fascinating subject but with all the glorious distractions and needling anxieties that define the life of a writer.
hours, reading Sea and Sardinia, thinking about Lawrence and Sicily, not budging from my seat. Instead, once we got to Villa San Giovanni, it was the train that refused to budge. More precisely, it budged a bit, shunting back and forth a few metres each way to hook up extra carriages from the ferry. The train extended itself by two carriages at a time until it was half a mile long. While all this was going on I hung out of the door, brake-man-style, looking out across the rails and the empty
seconds. I wish it could be eternal.’ Signed ‘In sincere and utter hatred’, it was dashed off, apparently, in response to the escalating crisis of the Cold War, but what Osborne was really excited about was the chance to sound like Lawrence. A year earlier he had accused the English of ‘living in a world without wonder’; a year later his loathing for Hugh Gaitskell was validated by appeal to a Lawrentian ideal: ‘the root of living’. But in the summer of 1961, in Valbonne, he was virtually
possessed ‘an even more remarkable accomplishment’ than an ability to paint: ‘He knew how to do nothing. He could just sit and be perfectly content.’ Not like me. I am always on the edge of what I am doing. I do everything badly, sloppily, to get it over with so that I can get on to the next thing that I will do badly and sloppily so that I can then do nothing – which I do anxiously, distractedly, wondering all the time if there isn’t something else I should be getting on with. ‘Being with you
with so that I can put it up on the shelves – and start another one. What’s more I’ve got no intention of changing. This is my idea of contentment. You see I’ve decided to butch it out, to go in the opposite direction to that suggested by yoga and meditation. The yoga-meditation-zen path leads to peace with the world and oneness with the infinite. Petty annoyances fade into insignificance, the ego dissolves, and you are left in a state of unruffled serenity and calm. Or so I gather. It’s never
I keep making such efforts to see Nusrat when I had already seen him play ten or twelve times previously? Compare that with the bliss of not being interested in theatre, of knowing nothing about it, of never being tempted to go! Oh bliss of indifference! So there was no question of going to see The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd but the fact remained that though this was a play it was also a play by D. H. Lawrence who I am very interested in, in whom I now have what might be termed a vested interest.