on 4 June 2013
Geoff Dyer is a lucky man. Not only can he 'write about whatever happens to interest' him (and get it published), he can also look back on a life fuelled by 'books...films...parties...drugs...women...sex...laughing...[and] drinking'. This isn't arrogance on Dyer's part, merely a bemused assessment of his own good fortune. Nevertheless, such admissions could easily become annoying, but they don't, as Dyer is good company, and that is surely the greatest asset of any essayist. Refreshingly, his non-academic approach perks up the articles and essays gathered here, a collection that rarely fails to sing.
There can be no doubt that Dyer has range. In fact, it is quite remarkable. Working the Room houses a veritable hotchpotch of subjects, and the pieces oscillate between art and music, literary criticism and memoir. Although the book is divided into sections - 'Visuals', 'Verbals', 'Variables', and 'Personals' - there is a 'fair bit of seepage between the various categories'. And so, in a foreword on Enrique Metinides, Dyer will bring in Don DeLillo (an obvious touchstone) to make a point. This is a successful (and subtle) tactic, and one that illuminates Dyer's lithe handling of the various art forms.
It is, however, as a memoirist that Dyer ultimately succeeds. 'On Being an Only Child' acknowledges the estranging effects an Oxford education had on his relationship with his parents, while 'On the Roof' recounts his Brixton days on the dole, a blissful scene deepened by a 'quality of study' missing at university. For all their greatness, though, it is 'Of Course' that represents the collection's stunning denouement. A short account of how Dyer met his wife, it is a lovely homage, and one that describes their marriage as feeling 'like doing something right without being sure why'. Is there a lovelier description of marriage?
Dyer's prose is imbued with a colloquial lucidity. Who else would claim that D.H. Lawrence 'probably believed and said more stupid things than any other novelist in history'? The tone may be irreverent, but it's true. He also has a discerning eye for the writer's craft: 'Good, bad or great, all writers are like inept criminals: they leave their prints on everything they touch'. Yet it is when discussing F. Scott Fitzgerald that Dyer comes closest to explaining his own style: 'Writing often works best when you are oblivious to it, when you respond to its effects without being conscious of how they are achieved'. Albeit indirectly, this sentence perfectly encapsulates Dyer's abundant gifts. He is a lucky man.
on 17 June 2014
This is a great read, great insight to a variety of artists. An amazing selection of artist from Alec Soth to JMW Turner. The essays are short and hold a very personal feel from Geoff Dyer, making them easy to read and thought provoking.
This book would be great for any student looking for inspiration.
on 9 March 2011
It is not the sort of thing you will find in the airport shop but for someone who wants to think it is an engaging collection of occasional essays.'The Moral Art of War', is a reply to Martin Amis's claims in The Moronic Inferno that non-fiction lacks "moral imagination". It can be rather pretentious but if you go with the flow you will be rewarded with some interesting ideas and new points of view.