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87 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost as eloquent as Lawrence himself
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...
Published on August 18, 2004 by Richard Arant

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5 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Revised Edition!
Includes new Afterward explaining how Lawrence was abducted by desert-savvy aliens!
Published on August 26, 2001 by Milo Miles


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87 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost as eloquent as Lawrence himself, August 18, 2004
By 
Richard Arant "Toun" (Lanesville, Indiana USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (Paperback)
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. There is perhaps an increasing unwillingness to entrust our well-being and our lives to individuals and characters we do not understand and whose ultimate purposes we are ignorant of." Let's hope so.

Jeremy Wilson's massive biography "Lawrence of Arabia" may better satisfy military readers interested in extensive contemporary document citations, and includes much more detail on Lawrence's Cairo years. Wilson also has a better set of photographs. The 1922 Oxford full text of "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," edited by Jeremy and Nicole Wilson and available from Castle Hill Press in the UK, is most highly recommended to all who find "T.E.L." fascinating.
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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Will Never See Its Like Again, January 9, 2004
By 
Gill (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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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84 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best on Lawrence, May 14, 1999
This review is from: A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (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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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh, engaging view, September 30, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (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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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully thorough Research, January 4, 2005
This review is from: A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (Paperback)
I have now read several books both on T.E. Lawrence, the Middle East, World War I and English governmental history. This is by far the best biography on T.E. Lawrence and the situation in the Middle East that I have read. John Mack did an outstanding job of researching Lawrence for this book. One of the most interesting sections of the book was reading the endnotes. They provide even more information about Mack's research as well as to clarify some previous misstatements about Lawrence.

Although Lawrence suffered greatly from depression and other disorders he was a truly great man. That he was able to be an outstanding friend to so many people while enduring personal suffering is amazing. John Mack portrays Lawrence in an honest light which actually makes Lawrence and his achievements all the more spectacular because of his personal struggles.

John Mack's biography shows us that great people are not perfect nor does their greatness make them happy. He also shows that people who, if truth were know, live outside of societies norms can do world changing things and be loved by society. Lawrence seemed to have been very accepting of all people, other than himself.

To call Lawrence's life tragic in some way diminishes his accomplishments. Was Lawrence a great man because of his problems or in spite of his problems? I think that Lawrence was capable of being a legend because of his problems. The psychological struggles he endured were who he was. Society is so quick to discount a person because of psychological problems, whether they are great people or not. If society were honest with itself, it would realize that everyone has some problem or other. Some, as Lawrence was, are open (relatively) and honest about their problems while most choose to act as if they don't exist.

Winston Churchill, a contemporary of Lawrence's, also suffered greatly from depression and probably some other things as well. Churchill was also hero and a legend and was largely responsible for keeping the world free from Nazi Germany when few noticed the threat or appropriately dealt with it.

It appears to me, that the greater the leader and the more astounding his or her abilities, the more "different" they are from what society believes is normal. A good thought to ponder.

John Mack does an excellent job of providing a well-documented biography of T.E. Lawrence as well as an outline of his psychological makeup. Mack does not claim to understand Lawrence or to explain every behavior. I had expected to read more of a detailed psychological report and was, at first, a bit disappointed. However, the longer I read the more apparent it was that Mack was portraying Lawrence's personality through an accurate telling of his story rather than trying to lecture on "who Lawrence really was" and "why he did everything he did". John Mack also did not fall into the overly Freudian theory that Lawrence did everything because of sex. Sex obviously played a role in his psychology but did not appear to be the overriding theme.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a biography should be, April 27, 2001
By 
Henry R. Griffiths (Doylestown, PA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (Paperback)
Mack's life of the endlessly fascinating T.E. Lawrence is examplary on all counts: exhaustive (but not exhausting), meticulously and thoroughly researched, and well-written. It's a pleasure to come across a biographer who eschews the irresponsible scandal-mongering that plagues so much of the genre today. No facet of Lawrence's life or behavior is spared, yet it is all scrupulously even handed. This is especially rewarding because Mack is a psychiatrist who provides reasoned explanations for so much about Lawrence that's only provided grist for the sensationalist mill in less-responsible hands. One of the best biographies I've ever read!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best on Lawrence, May 14, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (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. Another biography, was simply full of lies in order to sell copies. "Another myth exploded" expose probably written in thirty minutes. 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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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fame, Foibles, Flaws, and Flagellation, June 6, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (Paperback)
John E Mack has written a definitive and masterful biography of T. E. Lawrence, a man of fascinating complexity. The movie, Lawrence of Arabia, portrays a "mighty hero." Lawrence's role in the Arab Revolt are put into the context of his childhood, the Paris Conference, and the RAF years. Mack does not diminish Lawrence's achievements nor does he glorify them. Lawrence's post-war years were spent escaping his fame and what he endured. His psychical scars from the war deaden him to emotion and pleasure and his idealistic romanticism turned to nihilism. Lawrence's post-war penitence and alienation lead me to believe that he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of his brushes with death and his loss of physical and emotional integrity. He sought to break through his numbness by riding high performance motorcycles at breakneck speeds through the countryside and subjecting himself to scourgings.
If you saw the movie, read this book.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lawrence's Interior Life, November 17, 2001
By 
Thomas F. Ogara (Jacksonville, FL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (Paperback)
It is a commonplace to refer to T.E. Lawrence as one of the most enigmatic figures of twentieth century history. One sometimes wonders if it is his enigmatic character that continues to make him interesting, rather than what he achieved in his lifetime.
This is, as far as I know, the first attempt by a psychiatric professional to write a life of Lawrence. So much about Lawrence's personality - his illegitimacy, his craving for anonymity after the war even as he contrarily managed to worm his way into the spotlight so many times, his name change ostensibly in honor of G.B. Shaw, and probably most of all his experience at Deraa, made him an object of general interest, not to say lurid speculation. Lawrence, with his usual flair, manages to give us enough about his interior life in "Seven Pillars" to pique our interest without actually telling us anything.
While I must admit that I enjoyed the book, I must also say that I walked away from it feeling that I did not know any more about Lawrence after finishing it than I did before. The author covers a great deal of terrain, but I think that we're all not any closer to understanding Lawrence. Maybe the definitive biography is still waiting to be written. Maybe it never will be.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best T.E. Lawrence biography by a wide margin, July 24, 2011
This review is from: A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (Paperback)
A Prince of Our Disorder is, by a pretty wide margin, the best Lawrence biography I've read. Mixing impeccable research with insightful analysis, Mack creates the most complex and complete portrait of Lawrence to date. Unlike other writers who try and delve into Lawrence's psyche, Mack actually has the credentials to do so, and despite minor flaws Prince is extremely convincing.

In a nutshell, Mack's book has everything you'd want from a biography. It's more accessible than Jeremy Wilson's tome, more insightful (and credible) than Anthony Nutting and Desmond Stewart, and more balanced than most any other account.

Mack's greatest strength is his relative objectivity. Perhaps because he advances from a psychological vantage point, Mack avoids the political and historical pre-occupations of other biographers, taking Lawrence on his own terms as a man heroic and admirable, but also flawed and extremely tortured.

The genre of "psycho-biography" has become much-maligned, but Mack here shows its practical applications. Where a Richard Aldington might simply use Lawrence's writings to divine his personality, Mack engaged in exhaustive research to profile his subject: interviews with Lawrence's friends, family and acquaintances, primary source documents. Mack's hobby horse, viewing all of Lawrence's actions as personal rather than idealistic, has its drawbacks, namely in elliding the greater ramifications of Lawrence's actions. On the other hand, it allows for a deep and insightful analysis of an ever-elusive individual.

Mack portrays Lawrence as, essentially, a boy who never went through a proper adolescence. In Mack's view, Lawrence's odd home life, with parents living out of wedlock (yet the mother fanatically religious), combined with Lawrence's love of history and literature to create a strangely stilted personality. Analyzing Lawrence's relationship with John Bruce, the Tanks Corps soldier Lawrence persuaded to flog him, Mack writes that Lawrence's personality was "vividly... split... between the adult and childhood aspects of himself, which... he never fully integrated" (439). This seems a spot-on analysis of a man who, until the end of his life, reveled in deliberate misdirection, playful exaggeration, silly practical jokes and a rather childish view of sex. And it might also account for his "craving to be famous; and a horror of being known to like being known."

Drawing on Lawrence's childhood preoccupations with romantic literature and the Crusades, Mack hypothesizes that Lawrence's Arab exploits were a real life extension of his "hero fantasies" (100), relishing the chance to play Richard the Lionheart or Sir Gallahad in real life. If one accepts Mack's argument that Lawrence never fully matured, this portrait is plausible. It certainly accounts for the epic style and florid language of Seven Pillars, his comparisons of Feisal and Auda abu Tayi to medieval knights, and his schizophrenic view of war as both good fun and utter horror.

Instead of focusing on Lawrence's need for "father figures" like Hogarth, Storrs and Allenby, Mack provides a more complex view of Lawrence's relationships. Whatever the difficulties with his parents, Lawrence had a warm and loving affection for his brothers, especially Arnold. Some of the most interesting sections involved Lawrence's very close relationship with Jimmy Newcombe, the son of Lawrence's wartime colleague Colonel Stewart Newcombe. The testimony of Lawrence's service mates in the Tank Corps and RAF show a great deal of affection for "Private Shaw." Through this analysis, Lawrence's relations with Arabs like Selim Ahmed and Emir Feisal can be viewed in a more complete light.

Mack spends a lot of time discussing Lawrence's sexual predilections. Mack mostly avoids the puerile "Was Lawrence gay?" debate that's raged since Aldington, seeing it as almost irrelevant. Instead, Mack views Lawrence as essentially incapable of physical love, both remarkably ignorant of and disgusted by "self-degradation." Deraa only exacerbated Lawrence's neuroses, channelling them into disturbing, self-destructive impulses. He also shows that, contrary to many biographies, Lawrence was not a misogynist - indeed, he had many female friends, including Charlotte Shaw, Gertrude Bell and Lady Astor. And Mack disputes the preoccupation with Seven Pillars's description of Bedouin homosexuality, arguing that his candor "must not be confused... with what Lawrence would or could tolerate in himself" (425).

Mack was the first to uncover the story of Janet Laurie. A childhood friend of Lawrence's, Laurie was shocked when a twenty-one year old Lawrence spontaneously proposed to her. Other writers have cast doubt on Laurie's veracity, especially since she didn't publicly come forward for decades. But Mack finds other witnesses - including Reverend E.H. Hall, an Oxford acquaintance of Lawrence's - to corroborate the story. If one accepts Laurie, it certainly complicates matters for the Aldington/Stewart/Lawrence James school who bluntly state Lawrence was gay.

Like many biographers, Mack places particular emphasis on Deraa. Mack concludes that "Lawrence underwent a painful, humiliating assault at Deraa... and the element of sexual pleasure he experienced... was particularly intolerable and shameful to him" (233). And yet Lawrence felt compelled to relive the experience, through John Bruce at least, "serv(ing) to gratify... the very desire for which Lawrence needed to be punished" (439). In Mack's eyes, Lawrence's inconsistent accounts of Deraa are an unwillingness to fully confront the incident, despite his need "to make... private suffering a matter of public record" (228).

By focusing on Lawrence's personality, the historical ramifications of Lawrence's actions get relatively short shrift. Mack recuses himself of analyzing Lawrence's military or political achievements - fair enough for a psychologist, but still a cop-out. At the very least, though, Mack convincingly argues that Lawrence was neither a cynical imperialist nor a naive Arab nationalist, rather doing his best to reconcile these oppositional viewpoints. Certainly he rebuts Knightley and Simpson's assumption that Lawrence was an intelligence agent before the war, claiming that "Lawrence hardly behaved like the model secret agent" (103). And, citing writer Anis Sayigh's work and the testimony of Bedouin who knew Lawrence during the war, he shows that Arabs hold (or held) Lawrence in more esteem than Suleiman Mousa suggests.

A Prince of Our Disorder will likely remain the definitive Lawrence biography for years to come. Mack's well-rounded portrait of Lawrence confirms his view of the man as "one of the most moving personal sagas" (459) ever, and stands as a really excellent book.
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A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence
A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence by John E. Mack (Paperback - April 1, 1998)
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