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Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence Paperback – November 10, 2009

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Editorial Reviews Review

Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence is the best book about not writing a book about D.H Lawrence ever written. Other people have written untraditional, even loopy tributes to the priest of love before--including boon companions Anais Nin and Henry Miller--but no one has done it with Dyer's chutzpah, or with such fantastic success.

Dyer started out with the intention of writing either a sober academic study of Lawrence or a novel based on his subject's life but couldn't seem to do either. The academic study, he realized, was really just an excuse to read Lawrence's work, and the novel never even acquired a rudimentary shape in his mind. Instead, he somehow convinced his publisher to pick up the tab for his lengthy globetrotting pilgrimage, which took him from Paris to Rome to Greece to Oxford--not to mention such Lawrentian hotspots as Taos and Mexico and San Francisco. The result is an extended, often hilarious, meditation on seafood, English TV, Dyer's own creative impulses, and occasionally even Lawrence.

In Lawrence's seminal prose he finds some justification for his own capricious indulgences: "What Lawrence's life demonstrates so powerfully is that it actually takes a daily effort to be free.... There are intervals of repose but there will never come a state of definitive rest where you can give up because you have turned freedom into a permanent condition. Freedom is always precarious." Yet he refuses to read Lawrence's novels, confining himself to letters, travel reportage, and other casuals. Indeed, "[o]ne gets so weary watching authors' sensations and thoughts get novelised, set into the concrete of fiction, that perhaps it is best to avoid the novel as a medium of expression."

Dyer's fascination with Lawrence's minorabilia suggests not only an oblique criticism of the contemporary novel, but a promising direction for the memoir. Perhaps clean, well-lighted subjectivity is a dead end, and the future lies with eccentric, provisional works along the lines of Flaubert's Parrot and How Proust Can Change Your Life--or Out of Sheer Rage. After all, Dyer's bright (and brilliantly shambolic) book of life reminds us of why we read in the first place: to see the surprising ways one person can be brought to life by another. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

There are well over 1000 books on D.H. Lawrence, but this one has an unconventional angle. On the first page, one is disabused of the notion that this will be yet another critical analysis or biography, perhaps brilliant, perhaps jargon-ridden, but destined to join all the others. Instead of his planned academic "Lawrence Book," Dyer (But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz, LJ 11/15/95) gives us a splendid study on procrastination, denial, rationalization, and writer's block. As he travels around Paris, Greece, Oaxaca, and other locales, he agonizes over such things as what books to bring along and which to leave behind; either way, they become excuses for not writing. There is the irony that the self-admittedly undisciplined Dyer did indeed manage to produce this book, even if not the learned tome he had intended. It deserves to be called his "Lawrence Book," and it's probably all the better for the manner in which it was written. Heartily recommended, although libraries need not purchase if they have the 1997 British edition.?Janice E. Braun, Mills Coll., Oakland, CA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (November 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312429460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312429461
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Geoff Dyer is the author of four novels and six other nonfiction books, including But Beautiful, which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Prize, and Out of Sheer Rage, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. The winner of a Lannan Literary Award, the International Centre of Photography's 2006 Infinity Award for writing on photography, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters' E. M. Forster Award, Dyer is a regular contributor to many publications in the US and UK. He lives in London. For more information visit Geoff Dyer's official website:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on November 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Geoff Dyer was the award-winning UK author of five other books, some novels and nonfiction, before he set out to write a critical study of D.H. Lawrence. It is, according to his personal codex, a rite of passage every serious author eventually must pass, writing a critical study of an important muse. He readied himself. He stocked up on books by and about Lawrence. Not good enough. He built shelves for the books. Not good enough. He went to places Lawrence went to. Not good enough. He read Lawrence's letters, many volumes of them, but not in such a way to organize his study. Instead, he behaved badly, very badly at times. His Lawrence study, OUT OF SHEER RAGE, thus became a chronicle of how not to write a book, or at least, how not to write the book you intend to write.

Ordinarily, I am not a fan of people behaving badly or whining about the nest they built and then sullied, but this book is absolutely delightful for many reasons: 1) The narrative is a study in rhythm and precise language that conveys the mania of the title. 2) Dyer actually does get off a study of Lawrence, however oblique, that is insightful and invites wonder; it's just not the particularly detailed or deadly stuff of conventional biographies, hagiographies or academic studies. It is a telescope into the soul of a man far more tortured by his own sensibilities than Dyer, who nonetheless produced an appreciable oeuvre in a short life, who was, when said and done, comic in his anxieties. 3) It is a fine meditation on the attempt to get as close to a writer as possible, through the works and through the material detritus of a person's life. 4) It is a ripping, emperor's-not-wearing-clothes indictment of academic studies, which delights me and probably continues to offend academe big time.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Steger on March 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
I suppose one could only write a really decent, insightfulreview of Geoff Dyers' genre-defying Out of Sheer Rage by followingthe same wonderfully tortuous path taken by the author himself:procrastinate, delay, evade and travel to the far-flung places as Mr. Dyer once did, while constantly examining and re-examining one's own unique array of neuroses. Perhaps, like Geoff Dyer, by failing to write a solid review, one succeeds by taking a circular route, never diving straight to the heart of the matter and recognizing the triumph inherent in such a futile enterprise. Having said all that, one must keep ones' day job after all and what follows will have to pass for a circular route. Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence is a book within a book about trying, failing and succeeding at writing a biography of D.H. Lawrence (in a roundabout way) while simultaneously (quite by accident) employing one's personal and literary failures to gain access to one's own true self. Dyer leads the reader on a dizzying ride, we travel along with him and his long-suffering, multilingual girlfriend Laura in an effort to gain inspiration by way of the ritual of movement and a sense of place. We visit Italy,(Taormina, Rome)New Mexico, (Taos) Mexico (Oaxaca) and Oxford, all places where Lawrence once worked and lived. Nothing tangible realized there except some brilliant discoveries about the author's interior life. Observations usually unearthed by quoting Lawrence himself; "Freedom is a gift inside one's soul, Lawrence declared, you can't have it if it isn't in you." Dyer observes in a moment of self-awareness; "A gift it may be but it is not there for the taking. To realize this capacity in yourself is a struggle.Read more ›
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Theodore G. Mihran on January 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dyer has written an entertaining, informative, imaginative, and philosophically-revealing view of his struggle to motivate himself to write a book about one of his idols, D. H. Lawrence.
I felt an immediate closeness with Dyer when he said on p. 16 that "The Complete Poems" was probably the single most important book of Lawrence's. I have always been drawn more to DHL's poems and essays than to his novels. And yet in Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, DHL is referred to as a "British novelist," and not as a "British author."
As the work goes on, it becomes clear that Dyer's preferred source of material are DHL's Letter. The most positive aspect of the book is the nine-page index given at the end of the book, mostly to quotes from Lawrence's letters. Dyer's description of trying to pace himself through the seven volumes of letters is a minor masterpiece of hilarity. Also humerous are his descriptions of sitting across from a lady with a cold on the train, and his childhood health problems. I have never read a book when I burst out laughing as often as in reading this one.
Dyer likes to draw parallels between himself and DHL, physically as well as emotionally and spiritually, because DHL is one of his heroes. Or is he? How could he have made the statement on p.207 that "...once I have finished this book...Lawrence will become a closed book to me. That's what I look forward to: no longer having anything to do with Lawrence." Or is he, in the heat of his authorship, lost in one of his mazes of contradiction.
Dyer says his favorite photograph of DHL is one of him sitting under a tree "doing nothing.
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