Tag Archives: Geoff Dyer

On the Origin of Geoff

The Colour of Memory

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In the course of his career, British author Geoff Dyer has written books on jazz, World War I memorial culture, photography, D.H. Lawrence (really a book on procrastination), travel, the Russian art film Stalker, and—most recently—life aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier U.S.S. George H.W. Bush. And that’s just his nonfiction; Dyer is also the author of four novels and numerous essays and reviews.

But until now, his first two novels, The Colour of Memory and The Search, have never been published in the United States. Graywolf Press (publisher of Dyer’s National Book Critics Circle Award-winning collection of occasional writings, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition) has taken advantage of the increasing acclaim for Dyer’s work and released the two earliest Dyer novels to an American audience for the first time.

Dyer’s first novel, The Colour of Memory, follows the life of a young man and his friends (based on the author and his own friends) who live on the dole in the Brixton section of London in the 1980s. Very little happens, plot-wise, in the course of the book. (Dyer’s novels tend to be light on plot.) A few romantic relationships start and end. But mostly the characters hang out, talk about movies and art, drink, do odd jobs, and go to parties.

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Oprah’s Tolstoy Expert Goes: “Meh”

Give War and Peace a Chance

If you’re not reading Andrew D. Kaufman’s book right now, hooray! That means his book is working.

Kaufman, who describes himself as “a featured Tolstoy expert on Oprah.com,” has written a book called Give War and Peace a Chance, in which he raves about the salubrious effects of reading Leo Tolstoy’s 1300-page masterpiece.

In a way his project is similar to Rebecca Mead’s book about Middlemarch, or Geoff Dyer’s book about D.H. Lawrence, or any number of recent book-length works of tribute/criticism that explore a famous piece of literature from every angle. I usually like these books. They’re part history, part essay, part criticism, and the best of them—like Mead’s and Dyer’s—transcend their categories to become marvels of analysis and introspection.

Kaufman’s book, on the other hand, pretty much begs you to set it down and pick up a different book instead. Give War and Peace a chance, it says! Okay, fine. The first step is to NOT read anything else, starting with Kaufman’s book. If you take his message to heart, you won’t even crack open Kaufman’s book. Surely this is the most self-congratulatory, self-defeating book ever published. Just think of the billions of people on Earth who are NOT reading Give War and Peace a Chance right now. Instead they’re free to maybe, possibly, take a crack at reading War and Peace. Every person who doesn’t read Give War and Peace a Chance represents another little triumph for Andrew D. Kaufman, the featured Tolstoy expert on Oprah.com. Truly his un-ambition knows no bounds.

Maybe I’ll write a book called Hey, America, Go Ahead and Microwave a Half Dozen Hot Dogs, Eat Them in Bed While Watching Law & Order Reruns, and Sleep Through Your Alarm the Next Morning: Because That’s Exactly What You Were Going to Do, Anyway.

– Brian Hurley

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5 Amazing Books to Give (and Receive) for the Holidays

Jingle All the Way

Time is running out. The big box stores have been looted. Shopping malls lie in ashes. But a little shop on the corner is still open. Warm light pours from the windows. It’s your friendly neighborhood bookstore! The holidays are saved!

#1

Where You AreWhere You Are: A Collection of Maps That Will Leave You Feeling Completely Lost

Easily our favorite gift of 2013, this boxed set of 16 original works by the likes of Geoff Dyer, Sheila Heti, and Tao Lin is like a towering stack of beautifully wrapped presents flattened into one. Each piece folds out to become a sprawling map, or flips open to reveal artwork and essays. Dyer’s piece, for instance, is a huge Google map of his hometown in England, annotated with an elaborate legend that explains the autobiographical significance of specific places. Where You Are amounts to an elegant theory of mapping. The world is daunting, so we organize it on the page, and the result is… not a solution, exactly, but a better place to get lost in.

#2

JezebelThe Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things

The writers at Jezebel have one of the most bawdy, intelligent, and entertaining voices on the Internet. Here they assemble their favorite jabs and profoundest wisdom in a fully illustrated encyclopedia. Entries like Page, Bettie (1923-2008) are incisive mini-essays that flaunt their coolness while updating feminism for the millennial set. The entry for nachos simply reads “Yes, please.”

#3

The Wes Anderson CollectionThe Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz

If you don’t like Wes Anderson, we can still be friends. But you’re wrong and you should go away now. For those of us who can’t get enough of the sumptuous worlds that Wes Anderson creates, Matt Zoller Seitz has put together a big, glossy tribute, replete with stills, behind-the-scenes photos, a touching introduction by Michael Chabon, and interviews with Wes himself. Anderson is an elusive dude. While Seitz is gushing over the films, Anderson seems to escape out a back door.

#4

JessJess: O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica by Jess

Born in 1923, Jess was a pioneer of collage art. His visual mash-ups of old magazine ads, Dick Tracy cartoons, and obscure diagrams are as subtle, bizarre, and funny as anything that’s come since. This book includes several unpublished works, an extra 20-page facsimile booklet, and a fold-out dust jacket.

#5

S.S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

We don’t know if it’s pleasurable—or even possible—to actually read this book, but it sure is a dandy object to flip through. J. J. Abrams seems to think he invented the idea of constructing a novel out of notes and marginalia (evidently nobody told him about Pale Fire, House of Leaves, Griffin and Sabine, etc.) but he does a fine job of marshalling Little, Brown’s designers to carry out his vision. S. is the story of two young scholars who fall in love by trading notes in the margins of a novel within the… whatever. The postcards and handwritten scraps are fun to explore, and it’ll look great on your shelf.

– Brian Hurley

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