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Reviews 65 Victorian excesses of Twain’s folly next door, contrast dramatically with the “country” settings, with Robinson Jeffers’s rough stone Tor House by the sea in Carmel and the rambling ranch near Taos Frank Waters has filled with artifacts from his extensive collection of Indian art. While the quality and informative nature of Betts’s text are uneven, her black and white photographs are consistently excellent. The writer’s world is a world of things, physical items, yet hardly a physical world because its things suggest realities beyond the physical. Betts’s photograph of the old megaphone radio Sinclair Lewis bought after the publication of Main Street for the father whose unyielding nature drove him from home tells a poignant story, as does the bleak hallway lighted by a single naked bulb in Dixieland, the Asheville, N. C., “great chill boarding house tomb” owned and operated by Thomas Wolfe’s mother. The crude self-portrait of Flannery O’Connor with broad-brimmed hat and pheasant cock in the sitting room of Andalusia tells of an energetic genius whose early departure leaves a definite void in the white farmhouse about which her peafowl strut. Indian artifacts and cowboy memorabilia in Zane Grey’s rambling house in Lackawaxen, Pa., tell of an imaginative home two thousand miles from where the author lived. Betts knows how to speak in photographs, and how to group them; one hopes that she will turn her talent and camera toward the important American writers she has failed to include in this book. JOHN J. MURPHY Merrimack College The Life of D. H. Lawrence. By Keith Sagar. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980. 256 pages, $17.95.) In 1966 Keith Sagar published his The Art of D. H. Lawrence, a booklength critical study of Lawrence’s works. Now he offers the other side in The Life of D. H. Lawrence. Though Life does pay some attention to the writings, its main concern is with Lawrence’s life. To facilitate this orienta­ tion, Professor Sagar has introduced a host of new Lawrence letters and photographs of people who knew Lawrence. He also offers a biography that has some of the character of an art book — comfortably large print inter­ woven with illustrations on almost every page, and eight pages of colored illustrations of paintings by Lawrence and friends. Further, the reader has the pleasure of seeing individuals or places juxtaposed with their description in the text. One of the basic challenges in writing about Lawrence biographically is to avoid hagiography on the one hand, and character assassination on the other. Though Sagar clearly regards Lawrence as one of the great figures in 66 Western American Literature 20th century literature, he criticizes Lawrence when necessary. When, in a letter about his history textbook Movements in European History, Lawrence says “I feel in a historical mood. . . . The chief feeling is, that men were all alike, and always will be, and one must view the species with contempt . . . and find a few individuals to rule the species,” Sagar points out the dangerous elitism of these sentiments, nor does he fail to indicate a few pernicious aspects about Lawrence’s “blood religion.” despite its central importance in Lawrence’s work. A good biography will evince some degree of originality, not an easy feat considering how much attention Lawrence’s life and career have received. Sagar enlivens his biography with some arresting insights and judgments. It is almost a convention today in Sons-and-Lovers criticism to assume that this novel suffers from Lawrence’s confusion about his relationship to his mother. Even Lawrence claimed later that he would have written “a differ­ ent Sons and l.overs now: my mother was wrong, and I thought she was absolutely right.” (Sagar, p. 59). Yet, according to Sagar, “his mother had been neither right nor wrong, or both right and wrong, and the novel as we have it, making no such judgements, is the better for its ambiguity” (p. 59). Moreover, Sagar ranks The Captain s Doll above The Fox. A distraction in Life is the inadequate separation between Sagar’s text and that of his quotations. The quotes are barely differentiated from Sagar...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 65-66
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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