While I liked Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage a lot (a lot — my previous posts on it are here, here, and here), the last 50 pages or so had some irritating sections. I suppose when you read a book as raw as this one, some places are bound to irritate you. Dyer says some strange things about women, he sounds more whiny than he did earlier in the book, and he begins to write more about his rage, which is interesting I suppose, but what he describes is so far outside my own experience I began to tune out a bit.
But, still, I loved this book; I love this kind of quirky, non-categorizable nonfiction, the kind that takes you interesting places, although along the way you have no idea where you’re going. I want more books like this one! (If you know of any, please say so.)
I’ll leave you with a passage, one that captures something I’m familiar with — the way our desires and regrets shift and change:
I accept the consequences of doing things which I will later regret. In a sense then I regret them before I do them. Instead of resolving to learn to cook I regret to inform myself that by the end of the year I will still not know how to cook (because I hate cooking) even though learning to cook would improve my life no end. Instead of doing the exercises which will save my right knee … I resign myself to regretting not having done something about what will, in a few years, be a debilitating, potentially crippling ailment. I resign myself to things: this is my own warped version of amor fati: regretting everything but resigning myself to this regret. However things turn out I am bound to wish they had turned out differently. I am resigned to that.
Take this book which is intermittently about Lawrence. Right now I profoundly regret ever having started it. I wish I hadn’t bothered. But if I hadn’t started it I would have regretted not having done so. I knew this and so I got on with it and now that I have got on with it I regret that I got on with it in the way I did. I regret that it will not turn out to be the sober, academic study of Lawrence that I had hoped to write but I accept this because I know that, in the future, when it is finished, I won’t want it to be any different. I’ll be glad that this little book turned out how it did because I will see that what was intended to be a sober, academic study of D.H. Lawrence had to become a case history. Not a history of how I recovered from a breakdown but of how breaking down became a means of continuing. Anyone can have a breakdown, anyone. The trick is to have a breakdown and take it in one’s stride. Ideally one would get to the stage where one had a total nervous breakdown and didn’t even notice.
5 responses to “Final thoughts on Out of Sheer Rage”
I like this kind of book, too, and will, one day, I hope, not regret the fact that I have yet to read it.
Dyer sounds quite quirky. I don’t often pick up books like this, but I should give him a try sometime. I think I would like his dry sense of humor.
Emily — but we all have to come to terms with the fact that we will regret not having read books — might as well face it now, right? (I do hope you read and like it though).
Danielle — quirky and with a dry sense of humor — that’s exactly it!
For all the annoy things about the book it’s nice that you ended liking it so much. Sometimes the annoying things are what make the book so enjoyable, I think. They get our brains and our emotions engaged an don’t allow us to slip quietly through the book.
Good point, Stefanie — a slightly flawed but enjoyable book is probably more memorable than a book that’s more polished. And getting a bit frustrated or annoyed with a book does get one engaged and thinking!