At the 2010 Adelaide Writers’ Week, Englishman Geoff Dyer joked that he was six writers for the price of one. His non-fiction books have covered areas as disparate as the memorialisation of World War I, D.H. Lawrence (or, more precisely, failing to write a book about D.H. Lawrence), jazz and photography. Dyer is also an acclaimed fiction writer; his most recent novel, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi describes, in its first half, journalist Jeff Atman’s Bellini-and-cocaine ridden visit to the Venice Biennale and, in its second, an unnamed man’s – possibly Jeff ’s – trip to the storied city of Varanasi. Despite marked differences in point of view, character and exotic locale, the two parts speak to each other with subtlety, vim and humour. Dyer is also a prolific critic – writing regularly for the Guardian, the Independent and the New York Times – and contributing to editions of literary classics like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned and D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers.
Divided into ‘Verbals’, ‘Variables’ and ‘Personals’, Dyer’s latest book, Working the Room, is a selection of his non-fiction since 1999, from his responses to the work of obscure photographers and writers, to thoughts on human habit and doughnuts from Donut Plant. An observant critic who blends insight with enthusiasm, Dyer not only reveals his multifarious interests, but also forges unique and lateral valences between them.
– Estelle Tang
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