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Frances Wilson’s book is as magnificently flawed as its subject – and a work of art in its own right
In a letter of 1913, DH Lawrence described his belief that in order to be an artist, it is necessary to be profoundly religious: a veritable martyr, in fact. “I always feel as if I stood naked for the fire of Almighty God to go through me,” wrote this man who had always repudiated his christian name, which was David (friends called him Lorenzo). “I often think of my dear Saint Lawrence on his gridiron, when he said ‘Turn me over, brothers, I am done enough on this side.’”
In her new biography, Frances Wilson, who has been quietly in thrall to the novelist since she was a student, does not grill him lightly over charcoal; not for her the righteous disgust of Kate Millett, whose feminist attack on the author in Sexual Politics in 1970 more or less did for him, at least in our universities (a cancellation avant la lettre). Nevertheless, her book is a highly flammable thing. If its subject is a crazed prophet, sex-obsessed and violently contrarian, who stalks Bloomsbury drawing rooms breathing fire all over everyone he meets, her own style is hardly any less combustible.
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John Sutherland makes a brave attempt to rescue the reputation of Larkin’s longstanding lover and m...
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