Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

I've been reading Michael Korda's life of T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), called Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia. A good book despite it's being overlong with repetitions and the author's stabs at psychoanalysis of his subject (a common problem with modern biographies). For example, the theme of the overbearing mother is returned to again and again, and I suppose it must be based on something, but there is almost no evidence of it in the book. It is simply used, time after time, as an explanation for Lawrence's behavior. Oh yes, and this of course all goes back to his suffocating mother. I'd prefer the biographer to simply tell the story.

Nevertheless, it's a fascinating book, because Lawrence was a fascinating man. The justly famous David Lean movie, Lawrence of Arabia, only scratched the surface. Lawrence was a man who became a legend in his own lifetime (the process was driven by media hype, an early instance perhaps of the mass-marketing of heroes), and yet, at least much of the time, he despised the falseness of it all.

He was a secular man with a strongly-held moral code, but that code got shot all to hell in the war. And yet, that same war made him a hero. It made him "epic." It made him revered. He tried to hide himself away from all that, but of course there was no turning back. For all his achievements, he seems a man of great brilliance and also great cunning, and ultimately like a man who had lost his way. His story is amazing, and perhaps more tragic than Korda is able to say.


Glynn said...

Good review, Bob. I've seen the movie but really don't know much about him. I'll check the book out.

DebD said...

Fascinating review. I would love to find a good book about Lawrence of Arabia. Perhaps I'll look and see if it's available in audio.

I also dislike when author's interject their own psychoanalysis. I wish they'd just get out of the way and let the story speak for itself...especially someone as interesting and larger than life as Lawrence.

Thanks for the excellent review.

nance marie said...

i am now curious.

Erin Hope said...

Despite being really really tired when we all watched this movie at Nate, Isaiah, and steve's house a few months ago, I surprisingly still remember some stuff from the movie. He was.....interesting,.... for lack of a better word right now which I'm sure is out there.

Bob Spencer said...

Yeah, Erin, "interesting" is about all I can say too after having read a 600 page book about him. Very interesting.