Out of Sheer Rage Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence
The first book I read by Geoff Dyer was Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It. While the title sold me immediately I loved his discussion and reflection upon the train station in Detroit as a ruin. Next I read The Ongoing Moment about photography (which I should probably re-read) where Dyer makes interesting connections in photography. Photography is actually part of Out of Sheer Rage and perhaps it shows how Dyer wrote this later book about photography as much as he shares the process of writing (and not writing) this unique and brilliant book about (and not about) D. H. Lawrence. Out of Sheer Rage came to my attention through the blog, with hidden noise through two posts, this one and this one. It was this quote from Dyer's discussion of islands via Lawrence compelled me to track down this book: "Me neither. All you can think of when you are on a small island is the impossibility of leaving when you want to, either because the island you are on is too big and you want to go to a smaller one or because the island is too small and you want to go to a bigger one.”
A few selected notes (there are many, many more treasures within these covers):
-"It must all be considered as though spoken by a character in a novel." Roland Barthes
1- "Conceived as a distraction, it immediately took on the distracted character of that from which it was intended to be a distraction, namely myself."
2- "the writer who had made me want to become a writer. ... I wanted to read him with a purpose."
-"All over the world people are taking notes as a way of postponing, putting off and standing in for."
4- "...books, if they need to be written, will always find their moment."
5- "I could live anywhere, all I had to do was choose but it was impossible to choose- because I could live anywhere. There were no constraints on me and because of this it was impossible to choose."
12- D. H. Lawrence, "Where does one want to live?"
14- "I love the idea of speaking foreign languages. I hate doing anything in life that requires an effort."
16- The Complete Poems
18-19- that fabulous island quote
19- Rilke's letters
23- "Even writing a postcard required more concentration than I could muster."
28- "...which, on reflection, is what all philosophical thought comes down to anyway: how to bear the awful weight of your head."
31- Campidoglio- "It's a perfect square. And do you know why it's a perfect square?" "No. Why?" "Because it's not."
34- "I was more interested in photographs of Lawrence than in the books he wrote."
-Michelet and Barthes
35- album and captions idea
-"I did not know what Lawrence looked like."
-Lawrence: "I hate photographs and things of myself, which are never me, and I wonder all the time who it can be."
38- Lawrence: "What do I care for first or last editions? To me, no book has a date, no book has a binding."
40- getting a camera
-"I am a camera"
41- "An alphabet of aerials stretched away over the roofs."
45- "To travel is to eat."
-"The sentence had ended, left, moved on, almost as soon as it had begun."
47- the sea
52- handshake origins
53- "Anything not overlooking something is to be looked down on."
55- people telling you will like something
57- "Opera begins in the market...stall holders have to convey the colour and taste of fruit in their voices."
-"His job was not to sell oregano but to fill the air with the sound of the scent."
59- "A common point of literary pilgrimage is that you often don't know which house you're meant to be visiting. In a sense it doesn't make any difference because it's very difficult to return home unless you have absolute proof that you've been to the right place. Hence the need, I conclude, for a plaque on the wall: to free us from doubt."
72- "Life is really no more than a search for a hot drink one likes."
76- "Museum installations always have a touch of death about them. Houses have to live; they cannot be embalmed."
77- Lawrence hating the town, the town honoring him
81- community and neighborhood
89- Rilke on Rodin
90- Rilke: "For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been given to us, the ultimate final problem and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation."
-early photograph portraits "people focused their lives 'in the moment rather than hurrying past it.'"
97- photographs and captions
102- "The best readings of art are art," said George Steiner
104- trace of the self- re-reading a book
107- "...because however much you are enjoying a book, however much you want it never to end, you are always eager for it to end."
109, 111- poems, letters
111- getting nearer to the person
122- "the novelists I like best are...not novelists at all: Nietzsche, the Goncourt brothers, Barthes, Fernando Pessoa, Ryszard Kapuscincki, Thomas Bernhard..."
126- "Life for people with children is crammed with obligations and duties to be fulfilled. Nothing is done for pleasure."
-"Most people don't want what they want: people want to be prevented, restricted."
129-130- hatred of England
133- "The trajectory of Lawrence's life was not to leave his origins behind but to go beyond them."
134-135-Nietzsche- Human All Too Human- "...in a book written for 'free spirits' who do not yet exist, whose path he is hoping to ease into the world, it is as if he is describing Lawrence's feelings; conversely, Lawrence, at this moment, is, as it were, reading Nietzsche.
-"But when do you return?"
136- Neruda- "He who returns has never left."
-Lawrence- "I feel I shall wander for the rest of my days. But I don't care."
137- Lawrence- last letter: "This place no good!"
-films and books and life
138- "there is no escaping the everyday. What Lawrence's life demonstrates so powerfully is that it actually takes a daily effort to be free."
-"freedom requires tenaciousness...Freedom is always precarious."
-Lawrence- "Freedom is a gift inside one's soul. You can't have it if it isn't in you."
139- "Catherine Carswell applauded Lawrence for the way 'he did nothing that he did not really want to do, and all that he most wanted to do he did.'"
140- Lawrence- "It is my destiny to wander."
-"A destiny is not something that awaits us, it is something we have to achieve in the midst of innumerable circumstantial impediments and detours."
-The Question of Geography by John Berger and Nella Bielski- "Each one of us comes into the world with her or his unique possibility which is like an aim, if you wish, almost like a law. The job of our lives is to become- day by day, year by year, more conscious of that aim so that it can at last be realised."
141- Rilke- "Basically it's none of our business how somebody manages to grow if only he does grow, if only we're on the trail of our own growth."
142- detour as a straight line
151- writers and painting
152- "He knew how to do nothing. He could just sit and be perfectly content."
153- "That's what I'm doing, shaking my fist at the world."
156- Lawrence's temper
157- Lawrence: "Damn the world anyhow. And I hate 'understanding' people and I hate more still to be understood. ..."
161- typewriter ribbon
168- "there is no love or life without despair of life"
170- regret, breakdowns
204- "Life is bearable even when it's unbearable: that is what is so terrible, that is the unbearable thing about it."
205- "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."
207- "Lawrence said that one sheds one's sickness in books..."
208- driving vs. flying
211- revisiting a place
222- "Clouds were stampeding across the sky."
225- Lawrence- travel- "What is it, makes one want to go anyway? Why can't one sit still? Why does one create such discomfort from oneself!"
226- Had we not seen and done all these things we would not be the people are are."
-"My greatest urge in life is to do nothing."
230- "Should anyone flatter us by asking what we are looking for, what we are searching for, then we think immediately, almost instinctively in vase terms- God, fulfillment, love- but our lives are actually made up of lots of tiny searches..."
231- "Add them together and these little things make up an epic quest, more than enough for one lifetime."
231-232-"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 records 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."