Rose Gowen's Reviews > Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence

Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer
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Nov 17, 2010

really liked it

This is the third book I've read recently that owes a debt-- I realize belatedly, and thanks to Buck-- to Thomas Bernhard. (The other two are Bouillier's The Mystery Guest and U and I by Nicholson Baker.) This one is open about the influence: the narrator states in the beginning that he is dithering between writing a "sober study of D.H. Lawrence" and Bernhardian rant of a novel. It seems Dyer chose to combine the two. Even though the back of my copy categorizes the book as a memoir, I think it is to be understood as a kind of novel. Other clues are the Barthes epigraph that says (something like-- damnit, I told my husband he could read this when I was done and he took me at my word & now I don't have it to quote from!) "Read it as if spoken by a character in a novel" and a list of the narrator's favorite novelists, most of whom are not novelists (Nietzsche, Barthes... I forget who else).

Trying to categorize this book is perhaps not terribly interesting, but to me, who has been looking for courage and inspiration, the idea that the novel is open and flexible is exciting. I like fiction that shows what it's like "in there" for someone else, and this does that.
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message 5: by Buck (new)

Buck This is getting spooky. I bought this book not too long ago. How are you reading my thoughts, exactly? What's the frequency, Kenneth?

Dyer's always been hit or miss for me. He wrote an excellent book on photography: The Ongoing Moment. But at times he seems a bit too pleased with his own cleverness (and writing a book about not being able to write a book may not be as clever and original as he thinks it is.) Could be I'm just jealous because he gets paid to travel the world, do exotic drugs and sleep with exotic women. Nah, that couldn't be it.

Rose Gowen Really? That's funny. We have a demonstrated overlap in reading interest-- the belletristic hybrid book. Actually, I think we have similar taste in novels. I think these three books are all novels. I was happy to see you reading the Stevie Smith book a while ago, and I think it shares qualities with these novels, too. Can you think of others that fit? Have you read Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick? I haven't read it in a while, but I think it might fall into this category-- voicey, memoiristic, literary, low on plot.

The only other Dyer I've read is Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It. It was fun, but I wouldn't buy it or read it again. Part of the reason I read Out of Sheer Rage as a novel is that he goes on these Bernhardian rants, but they don't quite ring true for me-- they feel put on and worked up (in fact, he writes about taking notes about things that annoy him so he can turn them into rants on paper)-- he's always struck me as a life-loving, enthusiastic hipster. I did like this book a lot though! And the photography one looks good. As far as originality-- Nicholson Baker got there first, and the French book, I forget the author just now, Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books... I'm sure there are others.

Rose Gowen Marcel Benabou.

message 2: by Buck (new)

Buck "Belletristic hybrid book" is a handy catch-all. Much better than "weird-ass anti-novel", which is what I was leaning towards.

Off the top of my head, the only other book I can think of that fits the bill is Renata Adler's Speedboat. It's just a series of apparently unrelated vignettes, but it's the neatest little belletristic hybrid book I've come across in a while.

Rose Gowen Oh, thanks! That looks good!

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