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A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence

26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674704947
ISBN-10: 0674704940
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Editorial Reviews


A hugely admired, and Pulitzer prize-winning, biography which concentrates on the relationship between Lawrence's inner life and the actions and events which grew out of them. It is easy to warm to a biographer who, while drawing on his training as a psychiatrist, is never deceived into thinking that theory can 'explain' his Lawrence. The more Mack discovered about the social contexts of Lawrence's actions and the demands on a public man, the more he understood Lawrence's psychology. The result is a resounding confirmation of this approach to his subject. (Desmond Christy The Guardian)

We are not likely to get as thorough and judicious a biography of T. E. Lawrence for some time. (New York Times Book Review)

A great book which honors its subject, its form, and its author. (Boston Sunday Globe)

Mack's handling of this information is a model of sensitive psychoanalytical expertise. (Newsweek)

Takes us closer to the core of Lawrence than any previous biography. (Time)

Unlike many 'psycho-biographies', this was written by a trained psychologist who had also done his biographer's homework: it remains the best biography of T.E. Lawrence. (Contemporary Review)

About the Author

John Mack, M.D., was Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and Founding Director of the Center for Psychology and Social Change, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (April 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674704940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674704947
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Esteemed professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Pulitzer Prize-winning author John E. Mack M.D. (October 4, 1929 - Sep 27, 2004) spent his career examining how a sense of connection develops across cultures and between individuals, and how these connections alter people's worldviews.

His best known book on this theme, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977, is A Prince of Our Disorder, a biography of British officer T. E. Lawrence (who became known as ''Lawrence of Arabia''). He also interviewed political leaders and citizens of the Soviet Union and Israel/Palestine in the study of ethno-national conflict and the Cold War.

His interest in different worldviews was not limited to the terrestrial; for more than ten years he studied people who reported a connection existed between themselves and ''aliens''. Two books detailed how these ''alien encounters'' had affected the way people regarded the world - including heightening their sense of spirituality and their environmental concern. These were widely reported in the media as a simple endorsement of the reality of alien encounters, and he endured an inquiry by Harvard to determine whether this research met the standards of a Harvard professor. (The medical school ultimately ''reaffirmed Dr. Mack's academic freedom to study what he wishes and to state his opinions without impediment.'')

Mack's interest in the transformational aspects of extraordinary experiences corresponded to his own belief that the Western world requires a shift away from a primarily materialist worldview. This worldview, he suggested in his many writings, was the root cause of the Cold War, regional conflict, and the global ecological crisis. He advocated a shift towards a transpersonal worldview that embraced some elements of Eastern spiritual and philosophical traditions which emphasized a sense of ''connection''; Mack believed such a shift could alter the path of the world towards a more sustainable future.

Mack passed away at the age of 74 in London, England.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Richard Arant on August 18, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. John Mack's study of Lawrence is one of the most absorbing reads I've ever enjoyed in my lifetime. As Irving Howe wrote, "What finally draws one to Lawrence, making him not merely an exceptional figure, but a representative man of our century, is his courage and vulnerability in bearing the burden of consciousness." The impact that the trial by fire in Arabia appears to have had on his post-war life is shocking, and teaches us once again not to envy our great heroes. Lawrence wrote of General Allenby that great men cannot be judged by ordinary standards, anymore than the sharpness of the bow of an ocean liner can be judged by the sharpness of a razor. After reading "A Prince of Our Disorder," I recognize now that Lawrence was probably thinking of himself while writing those kind words about his former master, asking that he not be be judged by his hidden afflictions, torments, and self-doubts, all the while laying out those same imperfections for all the world to read. Lawrence warned us,"The documents are liars ... No man ever yet tried to write down the entire truth of any action in which he has been engaged." No man is truly capable of understanding his own subconscious motivations, but I doubt that anyone has ever struggled harder than Lawrence to achieve self-understanding. We will have to try to read between the lines, learn what we can, and apply that knowledge to enrich our own poor lives.

So sad for all of us that our leaders are not of the same introspective type. Dr. Mack comments in his introduction that "The destructive leader, and the eagerness of a large segment of the population to identify with him, comprise one of the central threats -- if not the greatest threat -- that faces human society.
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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Gill on January 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
For years, I have studied the life and works of T. E. Lawrence. My research has lead me across the pages of hundreds of books including his own Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but the best biography and analysis of Lawrence I have yet encountered is A Prince of Our Disorder.
Dr. Mack's thorough examination and explanation of the effect of Lawrence's childhood on his adult life and mentality is brilliant. Instead of merely stating his opinions, he touches on those of other biographers as well and then proceeds to state how and why he feels they are accurate or inaccurate, providing quotes from military reports, other Lawrence books, interviews with Lawrence's relatives and friends, and Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
If you read A Prince of Our Disorder, I can almost 100% gaurantee that you will have a better understanding of Lawrence's personal role in the Hejaz Campaign and the lasting effects of his experiences in Arabia on him physically and psychologically. Thankfully, it is beautifully written, and not at all confusing.
From the moment Mack "introduces" you to Lawrence you will have a desire to learn more about him, and as Mack walks you through his troubled life, you will feel pity and awe for this untouchable man.
I think that A Prince of Our Disorder clarifies the line between the legend of the indestructable, hero-Lawrence and the lost, soul-searching man Lawrence really was.
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92 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Bill Butler on May 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
In my opinion, this is the very best biography on Thomas Edward Lawrence. Brillantly written. Beautifully researched. A truly in-depth study of a very great man. Another biogragraphy, a very good one in fact, simply leaves out Lawrence's sado-masochistic proclivities when he joined the ranks after his departure with Churchill. This is the very best. And the author put such hard work into it that it is amazing. It's a masterpiece. My only criticism of this book is that the author definitely dislikes the film version of Lawrence's escapades in Arabia beacause it supposedly portrayed him as a bloodthirsty maniac. Yet in Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", he did state that we killed and killed and killed as was displayed in the movie. So, whether true or not, that's history. Nevertheless, this is and will probably be the definitive book on Lawrence. Mack put so much effort into this work that I believe this will outrank all future attempts. Very well-written. And despite Mack's pschiatric inquirie's into Lawrence's nature, they don't diminish the book in any way. So may biographies have been ruined by psychiatric interpretations. This book is not one of them. And the author writes compassionately and truthfully so that you know you would like the biographer if you met him on the street. A rare biography that is both user-friendly and very deep. A difficult task indeed. And their is ample evidence that Lawrence had sexual sado-masichistic tendencies after his torture by the Turks. The author does not dispare us of Lawrence's faults in anyway. Yet we are still left with the portrayal of a kind, compassionate, man who was indeed, selfless. A great biography about a great man.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
I've been studying the life of Lawrence nearly all of my own 50 years, since I was thirteen. I've read and reread all I could find about him, especially his own Seven Pillars of Wisdom. How refreshing it was to read Professor Mack's excellent book which covers so much more than I'd ever found before and with surprisingly brilliant insight. A fresh look at this enigmatic figure with modern eyes and a richer understanding. A great read.
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