A reconsideration of the author of Lady Chatterly's Lover by an avowed admirer, focusing on his decade of superhuman writing and travel between 1915, when The Rainbow was suppressed following an obscenity trial, and 1925, when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
... a text that feels as if it had tumbled out in the white heat of conviction. There is nothing balanced in Burning Man, nothing judicious, careful, or patient, which is exactly how Lawrence would have wanted it. Above all, Wilson resists any expectation that it is the biographer’s duty to resolve the dips, bumps, and tangles of her subject’s life. Instead, she makes a point of leaning into Lawrence’s contradictions, convinced that this is where the engine of his genius lies ... [a] fine biography ... Matching her methodology to her man, Wilson comes at Lawrence’s work with a thrilling indifference to the old categories ... So convinced is Wilson of Lawrence’s engagement with this medieval schema that she even maintains that each house he lived in 'was positioned at a higher spot than the last,' in imitation of the upward thrust of The Divine Comedy. This is difficult to square with Lawrence’s evident love of contingency ... Even with this unconvincing and cumbersome apparatus, Burning Man is an exhilarating ride.
Wilson’s target is less a straightforward biography than a sifting of Lawrence’s legacy for what remains urgent and alive, the aim being to shed its infernal baggage in search of an abiding paradise. One threat to her Dante comparison is how remote from heaven Lawrence increasingly appears, his attachment to the physical world growing shriller the weaker his grip on it becomes. But these tensions are all part of the drama ... Wilson’s Guilty Thing, her life of Thomas De Quincey, is one of the finest recent literary biographies. Partial portrait though it is, Burning Man is in the same league ... this is a book that performs a rare and laudable task: of saving a writer, posthumously, from himself. We are all beneficiaries of Wilson’s articulate and persuasive advocacy.
... an ambitious biography ... Lawrence was a procession of one, 'the sole member of his own party' as his biographer neatly puts it. It is to the author’s great credit, then, that hardly any of the vast pile of dirt that has accumulated around Lawrence in the 90-odd years since his death is swept under the carpet ... Lawrence is certainly the victim in Burning Man, as well as being its hero and also, you infer, its agent provocateur ... Ms. Wilson is good on the self-consciously performative aspects of the Lawrences’ union ... Far from being a conventional life and times, Burning Man is a triptych based on a Dante-esque pattern, full of highly imaginative detours into Lawrentian dualism ... there is something rather satisfying about the final conundrum that Frances Wilson sets out to solve.