Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence by Geoff Dyer

title:  Out of Sheer Rage:  Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence
author:  Geoff Dyer
pages:  232
genre:  memoir
published: 1997
source:  New York Public Library


So, I may have a small intellectual crush on Geoff Dyer.

Hear me out.

Out of Sheer Rage is a memoir of sorts as Dyer writes a book about his attempt to write a book on D.H. Lawrence, and it's far less a study of Lawrence and far more an analysis of the author himself.  Unexpectedly though, as I read, I felt myself regressing to a deluded, giggly school girl, gushing every few pages "it's, like, he TOTALLY gets me!"  There were times as I read where I wondered where Dyer obtained the transcript of my inner monologue (though his way with words is far more eloquent than my silent ramblings).  Check out some of Dyer's eerily accurate brilliance:

On getting in our own way/the lies we tell ourselves:  "The perfect life, the perfect lie...is one which prevents you from doing that which you would ideally have done (painted, say, or written unpublishable poetry) but which, in fact, you have no wish to do.  People need to feel that they have been thwarted by circumstances from pursuing the life which, had they led it, they would not have wanted; whereas the life they really want is precisely a compound of all those thwarting circumstances.  It is a very elaborate, extremely simple procedure, arranging this web of self-deceit:  contriving to convince yourself that you were prevented from doing what you wanted.  Most people don't want what they want:  people want to be prevented, restricted....That's why children are so convenient:  you have children because you're struggling to get by as an artist- what is actually what being an artist means- or failing to get on with your career.  Then you can persuade yourself that your children prevented you from having this career that had never looked like working out.  So it goes on: things are always forsaken in the name of an obligation to someone else, never as a failing, a falling short of yourself." (page 126-127)

On freedom:  "Unless, like Thelma and Louise, you plunge off the side of a canyon, there is no escaping the everyday.  What Lawrence's life demonstrates so powerfully is that it actually takes a daily effort to be free.  To be free is not the result of a moment's decisive action but a project to be constantly renewed.  More than anything else, freedom requires tenaciousness." (page 138)

On personal credo: "You'll regret it:  there are worse mottoes to live by.  Successful people say that it is stupid to regret things but the futility of regret only increases its power...Looking back through my diary is like reading a vast anthology of regret and squandered opportunity. Oh well, I find myself thinking, life is there to be wasted." (page 169)

Just the tip of the iceberg.  Funny, personal yet universal, clever, intelligent, challenging:  I couldn't put this book down and, given the massive fine I've incurred with the NYPL, I'll probably have spent the equivalent of two copies by the time I return it.  I regret nothing.

With its focus on process, this memoir serves as almost a pseudo-AA meeting of sorts for the aspiring author: by reading Dyer's account of his struggles with writing made me, at least, feel as if I wasn't the only one having the same day to day issues just trying to write, and to be the version of myself I want to be.

Rubric rating: 8.  I've already scoured the library for everything Dyer's written.  So excited to start The Ongoing Moment, where Dyer tackles photography and photographers.

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