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Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room Paperback – 13 Nov 2012
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"Testifying to the greatness of an underappreciated work of art is the core purpose of criticism, and Dyer has delivered a loving example that's executed with as much care and craft as he finds in his subject...he finds elements along the way that will keep even non-"cineastes" onboard. While he dedicates ample energy to how the movie's deliberate pacing runs contrary to modern cinema, its troubled production and the nuts and bolts of its deceptively simple parts, Dyer's rich, restless mind draws the reader in with specific, personal details." -"Los Angeles Times "
"Dyer's evocation of "Stalker" is vivid; his reading is acute and sometimes brilliant...Dyer is giving a performance, and it's another Russian genius who presides over his book, namely Vladimir Nabokov..."Zona" is extremely clever." -"New York Times Book Review"
"Walter Benjamin once said that every great work dissolves a genre or founds a new one. But is it only masterpieces that have a monopoly on novelty? What if a writer had written several works that rose to Benjamin's high definition, not all great, perhaps, but so different from one another, so peculiar to their author, and so inimitable that each founded its own, immediately self-dissolving genre? The English writer Geoff Dyer delights in producing books that are unique, like keys. There is nothing anywhere like Dyer's semi-fictional rhapsody about jazz, "But Beautiful, "or his book about the First World War, "The Missing of the Somme, " or his autobiographical essay about D. H. Lawrence, "Out of Sheer Rage, " or his essayistic travelogue, "Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do it." Dyer's work is so restlessly various that it moves somewhere else before it can gather a family. He combines fiction, autobiography, travel writing, cultural criticism, literary theory, and a kind of comic English whining. The result ought to be a mutant mulch but is almost always a louche and canny delight."--James Wood, "The New Yorker "
"Extremely clever. . . . Dyer's evocation of "Stalker" is vivid; his reading is acute and sometimes brilliant." --"New York Times Book Review"
"The most stimulating book on a film in year." --"The New Republic"
"We all know what it is like to feel indebted to, and inadequate before, a towering work, but few people have ever described that feeling with the ingenuity or the candor of Dyer. . . . [T]he book is not only readable, it is hard to put down." --"The New York Review of Books"
"Testifying to the greatness of an underappreciated work of art is the core purpose of criticism, and Dyer has delivered a loving example that's executed with as much care and craft as he finds in his subject." --"Los Angeles Times"
"An unclassifiable little gem. . . . Very funny and very personal." --"San Francisco Chronicle "
"An engaging piece of writing that asks questions about the nature of art and provides a new way to write about film." --"The Atlantic"
"Irresistible. . . . Dyer is an enormously seductive writer. He has a wide-ranging intellect, an effortless facility with language, and a keen sense of humor." --"Slate"
"[Dyer] finds elements along the way that will keep even non-"cinEastes" onboard. While he dedicates ample energy to how the movie's deliberate pacing runs contrary to modern cinema, its troubled production and the nuts and bolts of its deceptively simple parts, Dyer's rich, restless mind draws the reader in with specific, personal details." --"Los Angeles Times "
"Geoff Dyer is at his discursive best in "Zona."" --"New York Times Magazine"
"Intimate, engaging, often brilliant." --Michael Wood, "London Review of Books"
"You can read this book in 162 minutes and come away refreshed, enlivened, infuriated, amused, thoughtful, and mystified. An invigorating mixture of responses, but this "is" a Geoff Dyer book. . . . The most stimulating book on a film in years." --David Thomson, "The""New Republic"
"If any film demands book-length explication from a writer of Geoff Dyer's caliber, it's surely "Stalker." . . .""Dyer is, as the book amply demonstrates, the perfect counterpart to Tarkovsky. Where the film director is stubbornly slow and obscure, Dyer is a fleet and amusing raconteur with a knack for amusing digressions." --"Richmond Times-Dispatch"
"[Dyer] combines a rigorous scholarship and criticism with whimsical digressions, both fictional and autobiographical, to create the light but heady concoction that's become his signature." --"Time Out New York"
"Dyer has been just under the radar for many years now, but [he] deserves the widest of audiences as he writes books that are funny, off-beat and hugely informative. This latest is ostensibly about the Russian filmmaker Tarkovsky, but it's really about life, love and death--with many jokes and painful-but-true bits along the way." --"Details"
""Zona" is an unpretentious yet deeply involving discussion of why art can move us, and an examination of how our relationship to art changes throughout our lives. It's also funny, moving and unlike any other piece of writing about a movie." --"The""Huffington Post"
"Dyer's language is at its most efficient in this book, conversational and spare. . . . Cultural artifacts worthy of this degree of obsession are rare and it's a pleasure to read Dyer's wrestling with one." --"New York Observer"
"Fascinating. . . . Dyer remains a uniquely relevant voice. In his genre-jumping refusal to be pinned down, he's an exemplar of our era. And invariably, he leaves you both satiated and hungry to know where he's going next." --NPR
"The comedy and stoner's straining for meaning is always present. And, when it is rewarded, as it so often is with rich associative memoir and creative criticism in "Zona," we feel complicit, we celebrate the sensation at the end of all that straining, alongside with him." --"The Daily Beast"
"Fascinating. . . . Dyer's unpredictable and illuminating observations delighted and amused . . . all the way through." --"Minneapolis Star-Tribune"
"Wickedly funny. . . . The definitive work of an author whose work refuses definition." --"Austin American-Statesman"
"["Zona"] is about the power of art. It is a case study in how something created by anyone but you can seem like your creation, so deeply does it resonate with the details of your life. This is what Stalker calls the 'unselfishness of art' and it is Geoff Dyer's gift to his readers." --"The Millions"
"Geoff Dyer has tricked up "Tristram Shandy, " cross-bred it with Lady Gaga, and come up with an insightful, audacious, deeply personal, often hilarious and entertaining approach to literature in a world which doesn't much appreciate art or even the book itself. He is one of the most interesting writers at work today in English." --"Wichita Eagle"
"Dyer's musings on everything from on-set disasters to his desire to join a threesome make for a rich and wacky sojourn." --"Mother Jones"
Ever wondered where your deepest desires might lead? --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.See all Product description
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Reviewed by Leyla Sanai
A gambler trying to guess the topic of a future Geoff Dyer book would always be destined to lose. Not only is Dyer versatile in form (novels, novellas, essays, non-fiction books), but his range of chosen topics has been so eclectic to date that predicting the next would be impossible.
As far as non-fiction is concerned, Dyer's panoramic sweep has included the sacred - *history, literature, photography, jazz - as well as the profane - sex, drugs, Burning Man. Speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival he said in 2010 that the conventional notion that one had to be an expert in a subject before writing about it was one he rebelled against, and that with some of his chosen subjects, he embarked on writing the book with an interest in his topic but limited detailed knowledge, allowing the research process to educate him while he wrote the book.
Dyer was certainly very knowledgeable about the iconic Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 art-house movie Stalker before he started writing this book, having seen it repeatedly over the more than thirty years since its release. The first time he saw it he didn't enjoy it that much, but its slow, haunting scenes lodged in his mind, and he was compelled to see it again and again.
Stalker is a typical Tarkovsky film, slow, mysterious, allegorical. The central story involves a guide, the Stalker, taking a Writer and a Professor to a forbidden zone where, it is rumoured, one's deepest desires come true. There is a constant drizzle during filming, and the industrial wasteland the three travel through to reach the zone is scattered with the deserted warehouses, disused railway stations and debris of urban life - abandoned cars, telegraph poles - *that was characteristic of parts of north London, where I lived when I saw the movie. Tarkovsky was Russian Orthodox by religion, and his rendering of an inaccessible place where dreams come true had spiritual undertones.
Dyer is eloquent on how the mindless immediacy of modern living taints our appreciation of a film like Stalker. We are conditioned to not wait longer than a few seconds for anything, we become impatient quickly, and western films are quick-fire productions where action and dialogue fill the space around us constantly. This engenders impatience when we are asked by a director to sit and watch scenes where nothing much happens for what seems like long periods of time. But once we give ourselves over to the dreamy, unhurried pace, we can sink into the film and become mesmerised.
Dyer's writing is as precise and crisp as ever. His insights are perceptive and intelligent, his mind quick, sharp and witty. On almost every page his discursive style probes into related topics. There is a lot of fascinating information about filming, such as how Tarkovsky's first choice of site was unavailable. Since the damp, drizzly urban wasteland seems so well suited to the film, it seems fortuitous that this was the case. But the river that flowed near the site of filming was a dumping site for industrial waste, and Tarkovsky's wife among others, died of cancer. The film also suffered many set-backs, including damage to the reels of film that meant that months of work had to be re-shot.
Because this is Dyer, the book is laugh out loud funny. Some of the anecdotes are about Tarkovsky, who colourfully described various crew members as `childish degenerates', `cretins', `lightweight shallow people with no self respect', and `behaving like bastards'. Others are about other films. For example, the Turkish director Nuri Ceylan referenced Stalker in his 2002 film Distant by having the protagonist transfixed to a videotape of Stalker playing on his living room TV, while his uncouth cousin, an uninvited guest is visibly bored. *His cousin, unimpressed by the art house movie, *leaves the room, whereupon the protagonist switches to watching pornography. But the cousin returns to the room, causing the main character to switch hastily over to some brainless programme which the guest enjoys. The host grumpily announces that the TV is being switched off for the night.
Just as delightful are the snippets of autobiographical detail. We hear about Dyer's parents' frugality, in particular his mother's illogical refusal to spend a little more on buying the kind of steak she actually enjoyed eating. We find out about Dyer's *friendlessness in sixth form, and his mother pressurising his father to go out to the pub with Geoff, and his knowledge that his father would far rather stay at home and save the money. There is an interesting anecdote about Dyer's wife's one time resemblance to Natascha McElhone, the actress. It is fabulous learning more about Dyer, such as his desire not simply for a dog but for the very dog that belongs to close friends, and no other. Dyer is such a charming raconteur, so effortlessly hilarious, that it would be impossible to become bored by his side-tracks. Like David Foster Wallace, his footnotes and side-tracks are often greater gems than the main subject he is exploring.
Dyer is, as Zadie Smith said, a national treasure. Zona is another example of the way his brilliant mind takes high culture and makes it not only understandable, but creates a fabulously entertaining journey along the way.
In Dyer's case it allows him to reminisce about his first acquaintance with Stalker before the days of DVD, the weeks of waiting for a cinema to screen it, making a VHS copy of its broadcast, just in case there would never be another opportunity, at the same time as commanding us to watch it in projection, not on a small TV screen. He also goes into the appalling list of hazards and personal rivalries which Tarkovsky had to overcome in order to complete it. Multiple references to other Tarkovsky films enable him to eke out a reading of the film, which does not explain it, but sends you back to the film itself (to the VHS copy I made from the broadcast!), with a heightened awareness of its qualities.
As with the best criticism, this relatively short book, for such a long film, takes us closer to the work, teasing out its characteristics and the underlying reasons behind its choices with humour and humility (why the jeep, rather than a Mini Cooper!). The most intensely personal part of the book relates to the significance of The Room for the author (or are we merely led to imagine that this persona is the author?), to his fear that it might reveal secret wishes which he has harboured since adolescence but has never had (nor probably ever will have) the opportunity to experience. It is thus a book about ageing, about how a film can change over time, about how it will be different for each new generation of passionate film goers who encounter it for the first time during their late adolescence (how long does that last?).
Permit me to point out one tiny technical error, in case other photographers/film makers are also puzzled: the first part of the film, prior to entering the Zone, was shot on negative stock and printed onto colour in a gloomy sepia, not the other way around, as Dyer suggests. If you shoot in colour and print onto black and white stock you end up with black and white, sort of.
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