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Reviews 147 The World of Lawrence: A Passionate Appreciation. By Henry Miller. (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1980. 271 pages, $15.00.) Henry Miller’s The World of Lawrence: A Passionate Appreciation was written shortly after Miller finished Tropic of Cancer. Originally World was promoted by the Obelisk Press (soon to publish Cancer) to make Cancer more acceptable by presenting Miller as a serious thinker on major con­ temporaries like Lawrence, Joyce, and Proust. However, as editors Evelyn J. Hinz and John J. Teunissen observe in their useful introduction, Miller disliked the implication that his reputation could not stand by itself. Con­ sequently, he did not publish the study then, though he continued to work on the book, partly to exorcise those large figures. Then in 1933, Miller read Lawrence’s The Crown. He was so impressed by that intensely eschatological essay that his negative attitude towards Lawrence changed dramatically. The result was the presentation in World of Lawrence as a seer of death and rebirth. As Miller regarded the 20th century as already “dead,” Lawrence’s importance to him was enormous. That writers like Proust and Joyce were for Miller also “dead” in their inability to confront life and in their excessive analyzing leads to judgments like this: “His [Rimbaud’s] Illuminations outweighs a shelf of Proust, Joyce, Pound, Eliot” (p. 54). World abounds in such outbursts. Often they support an extravagant definition of the artist: “the more abnormal he is — the more monstrous, the more criminal — the more fecundating is his spirit.” Of course Miller is describing his ideal of himself here; as an esthetic to the Tropics books, it makes sense. One finds fruitful insights in World. “It seems,” he says, “as if an appreciation of Lawrence must always be half-antagonistic. Perhaps the reason for this is that conflict is what he himself best expressed” (p. 203). And in the chapter “Personality,” he offers this perception about Lawrence: “The conflict of personality which enabled him to expand and express himself is symbolic of the greater conflict which gives this age its character and form” (p. 44). But there are less attractive aspects to World. One involves a harsh “esthetic” snobbery: “For the mass . . . there exists no such problem as Lawrence envisaged. Neither life nor death has meaning for them . . . . The mass live among the dead facts as maggots live in a corpse” (p. 45). The book moreover is full of bombast: “The whole process in Lawrence is one of microcosmizins; the universe. Man must again consume the cosmos.” (p. 194) Miller’s selection of works to discuss is curious. He writes at length about Aaron’s Rod (and, less, about Chatterley, The Crown, and Apoca­ lypse). What he thinks about the rest (and best) of Lawrence is implied (as is his inadequacy as a critic) when he declares that “Lawrence’s ideas are more exciting in the abstract than when they are presented through 148 Western American Literature his fiction; there is something . . . sterile and artificial about his characters and novels” (p. 223). World was written primarily by Miller the Thinker rather than by the creator of Fillmore, Carl, and the unforgettable Van Norden. A sexually hard-bitten, comic response to Lawrence and to his art might have been invaluable, but World unfortunately does not come from that side of Miller. DONALD GUTIERREZ Western New Mexico University Sons of Adam. By Frederick Manfred. (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1980. 341 pages, $12.95.) Sons of Adam is a warm and human novel. Many scenes are as delight­ ful and ingenuous as Manfred’s reminiscence, The Wind Blows Free, and contain equally marvelous evocations of time and place. Here the time is the late 30’s, the place the Twin Cities, with extensions into Siouxland. The two protagonists, Alan and Red, have both come to the cities from South Dakota farms. Although near the end of the novel Alan discovers that he and Red are second cousins, the two have little else in common. Alan, a recent college graduate, is a reporter in the sports department of a Minneapolis paper, while Red is a pig sticker in the South St. Paul stock yards who moonlights as a boxer...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 147-148
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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