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Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H.…
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Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence (1997)

by Geoff Dyer

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4761736,043 (3.96)18
Sitting down to write a book on his hero D. H. Lawrence, Geoff Dyer finds a way instead to write about almost anything else. In Sicily he is more absorbed by his hatred of seafood than by the Lawrentian vibes; on the way to the D. H. Lawrence Birthplace Experience, he is sidetracked by the Ikea Experience; in Mexico to steep himself in the white-hot beauty of the landscape he cannot get beyond a drug-induced erotic fantasy on a nudist beach. Out of Sheer Rage is a richly comic study of the combination of bad temper, prevarication and base appetite that go into a book: if you have ever wanted to write, then reading Out of Sheer Rage may cure you!… (more)
  1. 00
    Flame into Being: The Life and Work of D.H. Lawrence by Anthony Burgess (SnootyBaronet)
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    Television by Jean-Philippe Toussaint (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: I'll get around to explaining the recommendation soon. I must buy some books & build shelves for them first, and that will make me forget to water my neighbour's plants, and hiding from my neighbours because I did so will take up a great lot of time, time that I could have used to explain why I recommended this.… (more)
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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Amusing, idiosyncratic yet always relatable, Dyer's rants form the basis for this story of writing, procrastination, and depression and search for meaning. I very much like Dyer's writing style, especially his deliberate repetitions. Yet the ending is a bit too pat for me, at least it deserved a few more rants.

> If I felt settled I would want to leave, but if I was on the brink of leaving then I could stay, indefinitely

> ‘I can’t bear it any longer,’ I would say to myself in the way that people always say ‘I can’t bear it any longer’ to themselves, as a way, that is, of enabling them to go on bearing the unbearable.

> I would like a lightweight modern automatic camera, the kind you can slip into a shirt pocket, the sort that doesn’t dig in, but it is too late get one now. In the last five years I have been to all kinds of eminently photographable places but I’ve never had a camera with me. To get a camera now would make a mockery of all those camera-less, unrecorded expeditions.

> Faced with the choice I was half tempted to abandon the Lawrence Experience in favour of the Ikea Experience: it’s a recurring problem this urge to abandon what I’ve set out to do in favour of something else, not because this other option is more enjoyable but simply because it is something else. It’s something I have half a mind to address – not just in this book, but now, immediately, even though this ambition is itself symptomatic of the condition it seeks to diagnose, a diversion from the task I’d originally set myself – whatever that was.

> Basically I don’t like tea but what else is there? Life is really no more than a search for a hot drink one likes. Compared with cold drinks (beer, fruit juices, sodas, varieties of mineral water) there is a dearth of hot drinks, I thought to myself, sipping my cup of – as it happened – rather nice tea in the White Peacock Café.

> And yet, at the same time that I was wishing they would not come to an end, I was hurrying through these books because however much you are enjoying a book, however much you want it never to end, you are always eager for it to end. However much you are enjoying a book you are always flicking to the end, counting to see how many pages are left, looking forward to the time when you can put the book down and have done with it.

> This is one of the pleasures of the letters: one has the very first touch of a poem. It is like watching a fire and seeing the first lick of flame along a log: you think it is about to catch but then it vanishes. You watch and wait for the flame to come back. It doesn’t – and then, after you have stopped looking, the flame flickers back again and the log catches.

> That’s what I’m doing: shaking my fist at the world. I won’t let even the smallest grievance escape me. I’m going to seize on the most insignificant inconvenience, annoyance, hindrance, set-back, disappointment and am going to focus all my rage, anger, bitterness and frustration on it. ‘I shall turn my head away,’ wrote Nietzsche. ‘Henceforth that will be my sole negation.’ Not me. I’m going to glare right back at it. It? Anything that gets my goat or pisses me off. Nothing will escape me.

> ‘Lawrence was angry even in his sleep, Frieda declared, and proved it by taking Mabel in to witness the spectacle of Lawrence mumbling and groaning in his sleep.’ Now this is the Lawrence I love. Frieda too, I suspect.

> Nothing is wholesale. The problem of truth is: How can we most deeply live? And the answer is different in every case.’

> I cannot accept myself as I am but, ultimately, I am resigned to accepting this inability to accept myself as I am.

> Life is bearable even when it’s unbearable: that is what is so terrible, that is the unbearable thing about it.

> I had not been to the Théâtre for twenty years and I had no intention of going again now. It was not even a question of liking or disliking the theatre. The important thing was the pleasure that came from not being interested in the theatre. I am interested in all sorts of things but it is lovely to not be interested in the theatre. Not being interested in the theatre means a whole area of life and culture means nothing to me: there are entire sections of listings magazines that I don’t need to consult, vast areas of conversation I don’t need to take part in, great wads of cash that I don’t need to consider parting with. It is bliss, not being interested in the theatre. Not being interested in the theatre provides me with more happiness than all the things I am interested in put together. There is a moral here. To be interested in something is to be involved in what is essentially a stressful relationship with that thing, to suffer anxiety on its behalf.

> Lawrence said that one sheds one’s sickness in books; I would say that one sheds one’s interest. Once I have finished this book on Lawrence, depend upon it, I will have no interest in him whatsoever. One begins writing a book about something because one is interested in that subject; one finishes writing a book in order to lose interest in that subject: the book itself is a record of this transition

> The more I ponder these questions the more I am persuaded that the real subject of this book, the one that writing it was an attempt to evade, is despair. My greatest urge in life is to do nothing. It’s not even an absence of motivation, a lack, for I do have a strong urge: to do nothing.

> Now that dodge – getting out of depression by becoming interested in depression – only works once. I’ve got no interest in depression now. There might be more to learn about it but I’m not interested. The only thing that interests me about depression is staying well clear of it. And since the only way to avoid giving into depression and despair is to do something, even something you hate, anything in fact, I force myself to keep bashing away at something, anything.

> Nietzsche wrote that the thought of suicide had got him through many a bad night, and thinking of giving up is probably the one thing that’s kept me going. I think about it on a daily basis but always come up against the problem of what to do when I’ve given up. Give up one thing and you’re immediately obliged to do something else. The only way to give up totally is to kill yourself but that one act requires an assertion of will equal to the total amount that would be expanded in the rest of a normal lifetime.

> Still, at some point, whether it was a good buy or not, I would not simply grow tired of listening to this new CD but would actually become heartily sick of the idea of listening to CDs and would think to myself that sitting around listening to CDs is a much more enjoyable activity, a much more enjoyable inactivity, if it is a relief from something else – anything else. And so, after squandering a day working through this demoralising routine that I have worked through innumerable days before, I would resign myself, would in fact abandon myself to not giving up, to picking up my pen and trying once again, if for no other reason than to render listening to my CDs a little less dispiriting, to make some progress with my study of D. H. Lawrence.

> One way or another we all have to write our studies of D. H. Lawrence. Even if they will never be published, even if we will never complete them, even if all we are left with after years and years of effort is an unfinished, unfinishable record of how we failed to live up to our own earlier ambitions, still we all have to try to make some progress with our books about D. H. Lawrence. The world over, from Taos to Taormina, from the places we have visited to countries we will never set foot in, the best we can do is to try to make some progress with our studies of D. H. Lawrence. ( )
  breic | Dec 4, 2019 |
I fell in love with this book within the first ten pages, started to fall out of love thereafter (weary of the same thing over and over again and desperate for some white space), but then fell in love again - harder - at about the halfway mark.

I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could, but I can't, so I'm rounding down. My issue is the unresolved matter of how Dyer can claim that he, like Lawrence, lived on the edge of existence with regards to finances but then fail to address how he managed to travel all around Europe and then North America without ever doing an honest day's work. (He does mention, briefly, writing a few articles for money, but he spends much more time talking about how he literally does nothing all day - and this for several years.) I'm guessing he had an advance that funded this project, but if so it would have been nice for him to explore that. Without being up front about how he was actually able to live this fairly extravagant lifestyle, his claim that he was struggling financially makes his adventures read like that of a man who doesn't realize his incredible privilege or have any inkling of what it actually means to struggle financially.

Still, that's a fairly minor flaw in an otherwise wonderful and hilarious book. I'd say it's requiring reading for writers - and would probably be valuable for lit scholars and non-writerly artists as well. ( )
  StefanieBrookTrout | Feb 4, 2017 |
Tried to be another Moveable Feast but fell flat. Amusing enough in it's own way but I could never get around to finishing it ( )
  MarkPSadler | Jan 17, 2016 |
Tried to be another Moveable Feast but fell flat. Amusing enough in it's own way but I could never get around to finishing it ( )
  MarkPSadler | Jan 17, 2016 |
Tried to be another Moveable Feast but fell flat. Amusing enough in it's own way but I could never get around to finishing it ( )
  MarkPSadler | Jan 17, 2016 |
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per - you see I can speak Italian - Valeria
'Out of sheer rage I've begun my book on Thomas Hardy. It will be about anything but Thomas Hardy I am afraid - queer stuff - but not bad.' 
D.H. Lawrence, 5 September, 1914
'Endless explanations of irrelevancies, and none whatever of things indispensable to the subject.'
Gustave Flaubert on Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
'It must all be considered as though spoken by a character in a novel.'
Roland Barthes
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Looking back it seems, on the one hand, hard to believe that I could have wasted so much time, could have exhausted myself so utterly, wondering when I was going to begin my study of D.H. Lawrence; on the other, it seems equally hard to believe that I ever started it, for the prospect of embarking on this study of Lawrence accelerated and intensified the psychological disarray it was meant to delay and alleviate.
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