NED by Paxton Davis
Kirkus Star


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Ned--even as a youth, ""different, utterly deep, steady, sure and complete""--is none other than T. E. Lawrence, in a rapt portrayal that is true to fact and not untrue to its hero's peculiar torments and gifts. Indeed, adults will quickly recognize Davis' (acknowledged) indebtedness to John E. Mack's Pulitzer-winning Prince of Our Disorder, but the distillation of motifs, the fusion of style and substance, is altogether his. We see the knightly Lawrence twice betrayed: first, by his discovery, behind the facade of a happy, respectable family, of his shameful illegitimacy, and then by his growing suspicion of British duplicity toward the Arabs ""which meant. . . that he might be working for a lie."" He is humiliated at Deraa (just how ""he could not say""); the fighting, and his conduct of it, becomes more brutal; perhaps because of his own need to avenge Deraa? He has always ""liked power but disliked his liking it."" Now, as his last contribution to the compromised Arab cause, he exploits his celebrity. Then, his public guilt assuaged, he withdraws into monkish anonymity--relieved, by Davis, with piquant details of Lawrence's concourse with the G. B. Shaws, his fascination with fine printing, his desire to present his memoirs in two independent versions, also--characteristically--private and public. Whatever young people make of this, it is intelligent, acute, absorbing--and far more suggestive of human potential than a conventional rendering of like brevity.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1978
Publisher: Atheneum