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5.0 out of 5 stars Nevertheless he quite clearly has thought about Stalker a good deal and if you too like the film then ...
All Geoff Dyer's books are about Geoff Dyer. Or at least the persona he adopts therein. Nevertheless he quite clearly has thought about Stalker a good deal and if you too like the film then this is a terrific book. It will send you back to the film, to Tarkovsky and in my case to Soderbergh's stab at Solaris (pretty good I think). It's very funny in parts and he really...
Published 1 month ago by chris

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Major flaw in conception from a (usually) major writer
Normally, I'm a great admirer of Dyer's work. Unlike many writers, he hasn't followed a careerist path by finding a niche, making a success of it, then repeating his formula. There's nothing that wrong with formula writing - as long as the writer hits upon an original formula, otherwise they can at best hope to be a craftsman rather than an artist - but the best writers...
Published 3 months ago by Stephen E. Andrews


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Major flaw in conception from a (usually) major writer, 15 Jun 2014
By 
Stephen E. Andrews "Writer" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room (Paperback)
Normally, I'm a great admirer of Dyer's work. Unlike many writers, he hasn't followed a careerist path by finding a niche, making a success of it, then repeating his formula. There's nothing that wrong with formula writing - as long as the writer hits upon an original formula, otherwise they can at best hope to be a craftsman rather than an artist - but the best writers tend to cover whatever interests them -Orwell was an example of this. Dyer's range is wide, covering both fiction and non-fiction and he doesn't stick to one subject in his work in the latter.

I'll state now that I am a big fan of the film 'Stalker' and Dyer has many, many interesting things to say about it. However, he makes one big - and to my mind - unforgivable mistake. Nowhere in 'Zona' does he mention the screenwriters of the film, nor does he mention the book the film is based upon. This is so disrespectful to the original creators of the ideas and concepts behind 'Stalker' and perpetuates the myth that a film, even if it is from a literary source, is a director's vision only.

Not so. Although a director might control and shape a film overall, if he doesn't write the screenplay, it is more than just his vision- it is also the vision of the writer(s), especially if they envisaged the story originally without the input of the director.

'Stalker' is based upon the novel 'Roadside Picnic' by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, two brothers who were Soviet Russia's best-known (in the west) writers of literary Science Fiction. The Strugatsky brothers were of the Dick, Vonnegut, Disch and Sheckley level in literary terms, genre writers whose abilities were the match of any mainstream authors. If you want to see how they fit in with 20th century SF and the eastern bloc Modernist/absurdist tradition of writers like Bulgakov, Zamyatin, Lem and the Capeks, try reading 'Roadside picnic', 'Definitely Maybe', 'Hard to be a God' and 'Monday begins on saturday', all of which are - or are about to be -available in English as of 2014.

The Strugatsky brothers wrote a number of different treatments and screenplays based on their book for Tarkovsky, the celebrated director of 'Stalker'. Tarkovsky then selected the one he wanted to make. Although much has been made of Tarkovsky's selecting a script that eliminated some of the more directly-expressed SF ideas in the book, the film nevertheless resembles the book closely except in detail. Personally, I like both the film and the book and it may be that 'Stalker' is better as a work of art than 'Roadside Picnic', but the fact is that 'Stalker' would not exist without its authors. It is easier to improve, expand or writer a variation on an existing idea than to originate an idea and in this case, the Strugatsky Brothers, not Tarkovsky, are the Proteans. Tarkovsky is merely an interpreter of their ideas. Arguments about films and books being different medium are not valid here in terms of my objection to Dyer's book: I fundamentally believe that Dyer has failed to make his book as good as it could be by not even mentioning the Strugatsky Brothers, their novel and their direct contribution to the film, which is seminal.

This failure is, as I've hinted, typical of film studies: so many critics focus on the 'director's vision' and insult the originators of ideas - the writers of original screenplays and the authors of novels adapted for cinema. It is high time that writers on film took on the challenge of paying more attention to writers, without whom...

So I'm sad to say that my respect for Dyer is diminished and his disrespect for two other writers - writers just like him, who wrote fine novels - both disgusts and baffles me. As a novelist, I'm amazed he doesn't respect his peers. I just hope he isn't one of these close-minded literary bigots who dismiss SF writers. He's never struck me as being close-minded.

Geoff, address this shortfall in future editions, please!

'Stalker' fans - don't rely purely on this book for your understanding of the fabulous film, Read the Strugatsky brothers novel and read up on the authors too - 'Roadside Picnic' is a great book and the Strugatsky Brothers deserve your attention. Don't ignore them like Dyer does.

Stephen E. Andrews, author, '100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels'
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nevertheless he quite clearly has thought about Stalker a good deal and if you too like the film then ..., 12 Aug 2014
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chris "chrisellis93" (Croydon, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room (Paperback)
All Geoff Dyer's books are about Geoff Dyer. Or at least the persona he adopts therein. Nevertheless he quite clearly has thought about Stalker a good deal and if you too like the film then this is a terrific book. It will send you back to the film, to Tarkovsky and in my case to Soderbergh's stab at Solaris (pretty good I think). It's very funny in parts and he really does make you think about the nature of art. Right up there with Out of Sheer Rage
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4.0 out of 5 stars A review about a book about..., 21 April 2014
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This review is from: Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room (Paperback)
To start with, Stalker is one of my favorite movies. I believe if you like the movie, or at least have some interest in it, maybe you saw it and didn't quite like it but acknowledged there might be something in it, then you'll probably like this book. If you have no idea what's being talked about then you probably shouldn't buy this book.

Dyer follows the movie scene by scene, with commentaries on the cinematic aspect of it, on the technical aspects and people involved in making it, on the meaning (or supposed meaning) of it with lots of references to different cultural media (sometimes a bit too much), with episodes of his own life, etc. It's a very enjoyable and unusual book, I couldn't stop flipping the pages. It's pretty much a guy talking about a movie he loves and all it evokes on him, backed with a lot of factual knowledge about it as well, and you can feel Dyer's passion for the movie.

That being said, I think it occasionally misses the mark and in the end I think the book stands on the shoulders of an amazing movie, and is interesting only because the movie is interesting, there's nothing brilliant in the book itself (if you could somehow separate it from the movie that it's about). Or perhaps the brilliant aspect of the book is the fact that the book actually exists, that someone decided to make a book like this about a movie. In that sense it's quite original.

In short, if you like the movie you will surely enjoy the book very much, even if it only works as a different way to see a movie you like.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you love the movie, you must read the book, 20 Feb 2014
By 
Kirk McElhearn (Near Stratford-upon-Avon) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room (Paperback)
One of the most fascinating films I’ve ever seen is Stalker: it's the Great Existentialist Science Fiction Film. Not many people have seen this movie, but Geoff Dyer not only has seen it many times, but has written an entire book about it. This book is the most fascinating critical approach to a work of art that I’ve ever read.

On the surface, this book is simply a commentary to the film. Dyer says, at one point in the book, that he had “intended breaking this little book into 142 sections [...] corresponding to the 142 shots of the film,” but it works better with his beer-in-a-pub approach, discussing the film as it goes on without any formal structure. I had the feeling, reading this book, that Dyer was sitting next to me, riffing on this movie that obsesses him so, and which I, too, have loved since I first saw it 30 years ago.

Zona us Dyer is, at times, very serious, quoting people like Žižek and Wenders, but is also very funny, as he shares his feelings about the movie. Stalker is – to sum up very briefly – the story of one man (the Stalker) leading two others (Professor and Writer) to a Room, where one’s innermost wish may be granted. The Zone was created either after a meteorite struck somewhere in “our small country,” or after an alien visit (which was the case in the original novel, Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky).

Remember that number, 142? That’s the number of shots in the movie. At 156 minutes, that’s more than one minute per shot. Stalker is the movie of slowness, where the journey is far more important than the goal. And the journey through Dyer’s book is so entertaining, it’s nothing like one would expect from a tome discussing a classic art film.

Dyer brings this movie down to earth, if I can use that expression, sharing both his insights after seeing the movie many times, and his own personal experiences, such as doing LSD, wishing he could have a threesome, and traveling in many different countries (including one where he lost his knapsack).

This may sound self-indulgent, but with Dyer’s captivating voice, and his sardonic comments and footnotes, this book is hugely entertaining. You may not appreciate it if you haven’t seen Stalker, but, hey, this is a good chance to see one of the best science fiction films ever made. (And one that really doesn’t have much science fiction in it.)
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Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room
Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room by Geoff Dyer (Paperback - 7 Mar 2013)
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