An assortment of nonfiction works by Lawrence (1885-1930) encompassing memoir, literary criticism, and riffs on travel and religion.
Lawrence is best known for novels like Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Rainbow—or perhaps more precisely, the controversies that erupted upon their publication. In “Pornography and Obscenity,” he addresses the matter directly, drawing a line between pornography (“the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it”) and his own mission to loosen sexuality from Victorian constraints. Lawrence wasn’t entirely successful, and he was a man out of time for much of his short life, impatient with British prudery but skeptical of modernism too; rolling his eyes at Joyce and Proust, he wrote that “some convulsion or cataclysm will have to get this serious novel out of its self-consciousness.” Editor Dyer’s selections reveal Lawrence at his most pointed and well reasoned (as in the superb “Morality and the Novel,” in which he argues for the importance of candor and integrity in fiction) as well as his most absurdly woolly. For example, an extended selection from an essay on Thomas Hardy gasses about distinctions between men and women, replete with botany and transportation metaphors. But if Lawrence’s ideas about fiction and gender are debatable, his writing is often pure pleasure. He writes exquisitely about the flora of Tuscany, the sunlight in New Mexico (“arching with a royalty almost cruel over the hollow, uptilted world”), and the resurrection of Christ. Lawrence was at heart a sensualist, but he also had a dishier, snarkier side: “Memoir of Maurice Magnus” is a brutal extended dismissal of a spendthrift aspiring author, and he stomps hard on life in London: “I am being dulled! My spirit is being dulled! My life is dulling down to London dullness.”
A quirky, wide-ranging compendium, revealing Lawrence’s character and debates over life, art, and faith between the world wars.