A dustyard of graves

I’ve been reading Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence, which is a truly bad-humored memoir about procrastination and D.H. Lawrence and depression and some other things. There seems to be something awesome on every page. I was so delighted by some of the passages that I wanted to share. This, on page 2:

I had decided years earlier that I would one day write a book about D. H. Lawrence, a homage to the writer who had made me want to become a writer. It was a cherished ambition and as part of my preparation for realising this cherished ambition I had avoided reading anything by Lawrence so that at some point in the future I could go back to him if not afresh then at least not rock-stale. I didn’t want to go back to him passively, didn’t want to pick up a copy of Sons and Lovers aimlessly, to pass the time. I wanted to read him with a purpose. Then after years of avoiding Lawrence I moved into the phase of what might be termed pre-preparation. I visited Eastwood, his birthplace, I read biographies, I amassed a hoard of photographs which I kept in a once-new document wallet, blue, on which I had written ‘D.H.L.: Photos’ in determined black ink.

And this, on page 101, presented without comment:

That is the hallmark of academic criticism: it kills everything it touches. Walk around a university campus and there is an almost palpable smell of death about the place because hundreds of academics are busy killing everything they touch. I recently met an academic who said that he taught German literature. I was aghast: to think, this man who had been in universities all his life was teaching Rilke. Rilke! Oh, it was too much to bear. You don’t teach Rilke, I wanted to say, you kill Rilke! You turn him to dust and then you go off to conferences where dozens of other academic-morticians gather with the express intention of killing Rilke and turning him to dust. Then, as part of the cover-up, the conference papers are published, the dust is embalmed and before you know it literature is a vast graveyard of dust, a dustyard of graves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *