Reading Geoff Dyer is like meeting an old but dear friend after a long absence. Without awkwardness a close relationship is resumed, with vows not to allow so long a parting again. I’m reading Otherwise Known as the Human Condition, an edition for the American market, which contains selections from two previous collections of essays: Anglo-English Attitudes and Working the Room. The former selection of essays are rereads and the latter are new, both well-crafted. To my mind, Dyer is the best contemporary British writer.
Over the long weekend I caught up with some recent Dyer material on the internet, some captured below:
John Crace interviews Geoff Dyer for the Guardian:
While his fiction may feel a bit samey and lightweight, his non-fiction is anything but. As ever with Dyer, you have to issue a warning about possible category errors. Non-fiction for him is really just another location on the fiction continuum, and versions of Geoff/Jeff are as likely to turn up there as anywhere else; but, given this, the range of subject matter is prolifically diverse. And, unlike his fiction, there is no sense – apart from a lightness of touch and flashes of comedy – that you are getting a standard Dyer take on a subject. In Ways of Telling, Dyer took on John Berger, a literary hero whom he has gone on to outdo in the range of his output; The Missing of the Somme is a mini-masterpiece on memory and loss inspired by a chance visit to the first world war Thiepval Memorial; But Beautiful is a lyrical, offbeat homage to the jazz greats; Out of Sheer Rage manages to pull off the impossible – an engaging book on Dyer’s failure to write a serious critique of DH Lawrence; Yoga for People Who Can’t be Bothered to Do It is part-travelogue, part-memoir, part-history, and should by rights be a total mess but somehow hangs together; and in The Ongoing Moment he came up with a series of scholarly essays on photography that had professional snappers drooling in admiration despite Dyer’s flip but frank admission that “he can’t be bothered to take pictures himself when he goes abroad because it’s too much effort”.
Michael Dirda reviews Otherwise Known as the Human Condition for the Washington Post.
In this weekend’s FT Geoff Dyer opines on the summer dress:
A summer dress always looks best without tights or stockings. It is about limbs that are either tanned or in the process of becoming so. It is an advertisement for health and fitness (as such it is defiled by any association with cigarettes). The summer dress is only incidentally sexual; as such it is far sexier than the kind of fetish clobber or lingerie on offer in Agent Provocateur. Ideally it is even worn without make-up. In the context of ball gowns, where everything is artificial and heightened, make-up does not look out of place, but the summer dress makes anything but the most discreetly applied make-up look unnatural and unhealthy.
In the New Yorker, Geoff Dyer tells us what he’s currently reading, and reveals his next book, Zona, about Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker.
Stephen Burn of the New York Times reviews Otherwise Known as the Human Condition.
David Ulin, book critic for the LA Times reviews Geoff Dyer’s Otherwise Known as the Human Condition.
This is the essential tension in Dyer’s writing; he is always present, a defining intelligence, a tour guide to the inner life. And yet if this risks seeming self-indulgent, that to Dyer is part of the challenge, part of the point. “[I]t’s not what you know that’s important; it’s what your passion gives you the potential to discover,” he writes in “My Life as a Gate-Crasher,” an essay that explores his methodology before returning to a familiar touchstone. “[T]he writer’s self-sufficient — and therefore ideal — status,” Dyer notes, “is expressed with sad and beautiful pride by Lawrence: ‘I am no more than a single human man wandering my lonely way across these years.’”
True crime is a genre I instinctively avoid, but People Who Eat Darkness promises a less exploitative treatment. As Geoff Dyer says in his review:
Parry has a knack of tacitly cross-examining his readers in this way, not implicating them exactly, but immersing them in a darkness that thickens as facts come to light.