Review

Numéro Cinq recently posted my review of Zona by Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer is a British-born essayist and novelist. While he has written a number of smart novels—probably his best being Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi—his nonfiction (written mostly as book-length essays) is thought of as especially original and brilliant. Dyer’s broad intelligence and charm make the work addictive. He has a gift for putting oddly diverse cultural touchstones—Hakim Bey to Wordsworth, Thievery Corporation to Miguel De Unamuno—together with his own offbeat insights to create keys to contemporary culture (and personal understanding).

In a recent Bookforum interview Dyer was asked if was fair to say that his work is written in part “against clichés of genre, clichés of convention.” Here’s what he said:

Oh, indeed. Absolutely. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve drifted away from fiction as a reader as well as a writer…[S]ome novels can actually be conceived at the level of cliché. The whole idea of what we want from a novel sometimes is for it to conform to a very familiar set of conventions.

Dyer’s nonfiction often falls within two categories. While he has written books on serious subjects such as The Missing of the Somme (about World War I) and the Ongoing Moment (about documentary photography), he also has a cannon of playful and irreverent books such as Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It (a collection of travel writings) and Out of Sheer Rage (a quasi-memoir devoted to Dyer’s own desire to write a “sober academic study” of D. H. Lawrence —he never does; he just writes one about wanting to write one).

Zona­—a book devoted to writing a gloss on Stalker, a ’70 Russian art-house film—seems to belong somewhere in that whimsical column.  The rest is here.