Plus: Another Great Day at Sea, and White Sands
But Beautiful was my introduction to Geoff Dyer, a writer I felt at home with immediately, as I did when I first came across Hemingway and Steinbeck, D. H. Lawrence, and a certain Jan Myrdal, whose Confessions of a Disloyal European in the 1960s opened my eyes to certain aspects of life I had not given enough thought to. Sadly, Myrdal’s work since that fine memoir of 1968, has been little more than Marxist polemics.
Although no polemicist, Dyer can, nevertheless, certainly rage, with his 1997, Out of Sheer Rage: In the Shadow of D. H. Lawrence, another masterpiece of infiltration into another man’s life through the intricacies of his own:
“ 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. Conceived as a distraction, it immediately took on the distracted character of that from which it was intended to be a distraction, namely myself.”
Consequently Out of Sheer Rage, is as much an autobiography of Dyer, as it is a biography of Lawrence, where he is able, through literary nimbleness, to get inside the novelist’s head and heart and take a look at the motivations and ambitious of a coal miner’s son, all bound nicely in Dyer’s own frustrations and anger at the often garrulous, then equally taciturn, Lawrence, yet driven, as he was with the inner workings of the jazz musicians of But Beautiful, to somehow try and understand the Nottingham born novelist, and by so doing, himself. That he succeeds is due to his unique perception, and the ever present rage (and wit) of a young man that boils and sizzles throughout the book, which makes it hugely readable, informative, and, somehow, necessary to life itself.