Tuesday, July 14, 2009
OUT OF SHEER RAGE: WRESTLING WITH D.H. LAWRENCE by Geoff Dyer
Geoff Dyer is a wanker. Anyone who has read his dire book of travel pieces, Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It, knows just how much of a wanker he can be. Out of Sheer Rage, on the other hand, is a much better and more original book, a first-person account of Dyer's failure to write a book about D.H. Lawrence that becomes, in its way, a rather beautiful book about Lawrence. Reading it, I was reminded of Henry Miller's early attempt to write a Lawrence book; as I recall, Miller amassed reams of research material and became so engrossed in the research that the book itself was never written. Something of that sort happens to Dyer, but fortunately he turns his inability to sit down and re-read Women in Love into the motive for a globe-spanning tour of Lawrentian locales that rarely fails to entertain and sometimes does much more. There are memorable visits to Lawrence's childhood home and his house in Italy, but the book really comes alive when a Lawrentian consciousness seems to leak out of Dyer's reading and invade his world. After a moped crash in Greece, for example, Dyer and his girlfriend have post-traumatic, injured sex. Lawrence would've understood their need for sex at this moment, but he couldn't have written a scene with the gentle humor of Dyer's. (Humor was not D.H.'s strong point; it's hard to laugh while coughing blood.) Even better--the high point of the book, in fact--is a druggy scene on a Mexican beach in which Dyer takes himself in hand (the arch-wanker wanks) while staring at his girlfriend's pussy and imagining himself licking her clit while she pisses on his chin. Dyer can hold this vision for only a few seconds, though, until self-consciousness kicks in and he realizes he's sitting naked on a public beach preparing to wank. There are quite a lot of good scenes, interesting thoughts and questionable assertions in this book, and they are all worth reading.