Burning Man: The Trials of D. H. Lawrence (Hardcover)
An electrifying, revelatory new biography of D. H. Lawrence, with a focus on his difficult middle years
“Never trust the teller,” wrote D. H. Lawrence, “trust the tale.” Everyone who knew him told stories about Lawrence, and Lawrence told stories about everyone he knew. He also told stories about himself, again and again: a pioneer of autofiction, no writer before Lawrence had made so permeable the border between life and literature. In Burning Man: The Trials of D. H. Lawrence, acclaimed biographer Frances Wilson tells a new story about the author, 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.
Taking after Lawrence’s own literary model, Dante, and adopting the structure of The Divine Comedy, Burning Man is a distinctly Lawrentian book, one that pursues Lawrence around the globe and reflects his life of wild allegory. Eschewing the confines of traditional biography, it offers a triptych of lesser-known episodes drawn from lesser-known sources, including tales of Lawrence as told by his friends in letters, memoirs, and diaries. Focusing on three turning points in Lawrence’s pilgrimage (his crises in Cornwall, Italy, and New Mexico) and three central adversaries—his wife, Frieda; the writer Maurice Magnus; and his patron, Mabel Dodge Luhan—Wilson uncovers a lesser-known Lawrence, both as a writer and as a man.
Strikingly original, superbly researched, and always revelatory, Burning Man is a marvel of iconoclastic biography. With flair and focus, Wilson unleashes a distinct perspective on one of history’s most beloved and infamous writers.
About the Author
Frances Wilson is a critic, a journalist, and the author of several works of nonfiction, including Literary Seductions; The Courtesan’s Revenge; The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth, which won the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize; How to Survive the Titanic, winner of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography; and Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and she received a fellowship from the New York Public Library's Cullman Center in 2018. She lives in London with her daughter.
“Dare we hope that Lawrence might soon assume his rightful place—neither messiah nor pariah—as a writer of boundless freshness, originality and breadth? If so Frances Wilson’s stimulating and utterly enthralling book will be seen to play a vital role in the long-awaited rehabilitation of the man who, in the words of poet Tony Hoagland, ‘burned like an acetylene torch / from one end to the other of his life.’” —Geoff Dyer, author of Out of Sheer Rage
“A brilliantly unconventional biography, passionately researched and written with a wild, playful energy. Above all Frances Wilson’s great achievement is to liberate Lawrence from the old, heavy, moth-eaten ‘priest of love’ mythology, instead breathing new life into his big novels as contemporary ‘autofiction,’ and lovingly stoking the furious fires in his letters, poetry and short stories. A new Lawrence emerges: a thinker, travel writer, and essayist of strange, absurd, irrepressible genius.” —Richard Holmes, author of The Age of Wonder and This Long Pursuit: Reflections of a Romantic Biographer
“‘How can biography do justice to Lawrence’s complexities?’ asks this book. Frances Wilson shows us exactly how. Hers is the most original voice in life-writing today.” —Lucasta Miller, author of L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Mysterious Death of the “Female Byron”
“D. H. Lawrence ‘was a different man in every place,’ Frances Wilson says, and ‘never in the same place for more than a few months.’ This was true whether the places were literal or figurative or (more often) both, and this wonderful book traces in detail Lawrence’s sojourns in three worlds, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, which some people call England, Italy, and America. It is easy to lose Lawrence among his contradictions, and he himself often got lost there, but Frances Wilson doesn’t let him out of her subtle sight for a moment.” —Michael Wood, professor of English emeritus at Princeton University and author of The Habits of Distraction