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
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.