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Questions for Geoff Dyer
Q: What is this book about?
A: At the risk of being cowardly, I'll take refuge behind a line from one of Kerouac’s letters: "It's my contention that a man who can sweat fantastically for the flesh is also capable of sweating fantastically for the spirit." (See also answer to question 4.)
Q: Is it a modern twist on Death in Venice? If not, what's up with the title?
A: Yes, the first part is a version of the Mann novella--the opening sentence is ripped straight out of the opening line of the original--but mine operates at a far lower cultural level. His protagonist is a world-famous composer, mine is a hack journalist. And whereas in the Mann, Aschenbach's obsession with the young boy, Tadzio, is tied up with some quest for ideal beauty, in my book the romance with Laura is very carnal and hedonistic--though that could itself be said to represent some kind of ideal.
Q: Why Venice and Varanasi?
A: They're actually very similar: both are water-based, old, with crumbling palaces facing onto either the Grand Canal or the Ganges with alleys and narrow streets leading off into darkness and sudden oases of brilliant light. And both, in their ways, are pilgrimage sites. I'm not the first person to be struck by the similarities. There are quite a few occasions in his Indian Journals when Ginsberg is so stoned walking by the Ganges that he thinks he's in Venice, strolling along the Grand Canal!
Q: Are the two parts of the book, two stories in two different cities, or are they the same story? How are they linked? One early reviewer claimed that the protagonist in each story wasn't the same person, but two people--is it the same person or not?
A: Well, these are huge questions and this, in fact, is what the book is about. By asking questions like these the reader is hopefully confronted by several more, about what kind of unity the book has, about the ways in which a novel might be capable of generating an aesthetic unity of experience that is not narrative-driven. Regarding the person in each part, I'll opt for what governments call the N.C.N.D. response, neither confirming nor denying. It is never made clear whether the un-named narrator in Varanasi is the same as the protagonist in Venice. And although sequentially it comes afterwards, there is nothing in the book to suggest that part 2 comes chronologically after part 1. I actually wanted to subtitle the book "A Diptych" but was dissuaded by my handlers. I didn't mind: it so obviously is a diptych there's no need to call it one!
Q: You've clearly spent a lot of time in Venice and Varanasi. Have any of Jeff's adventures happened to you?
A: Yes, I've been to three biennales and spent a big chunk of time in Varanasi. As I've said elsewhere, I like writing stuff that's only an inch from life but all the art--and, for me, all the fun--is in that inch.
well written and very interesting. second half (Varanasi) can be experienced as a vicarious spiritual journey along with the author.Published 4 days ago by DennisV
Dyer's an interesting writer. I'm not sure what my verdict is yet. I think I've read all of his books by now, but I'm not sure. That's one of the problems. Read morePublished 14 days ago by ignacio f.
As a constant and enthusiastic traveler I was awed by the the authors ability to capture the feelings associated with finding oneself in an exotic land.Published 3 months ago by Jeffrey S. Pechter
This book could have been so much more compelling and insightful than it was. Geoff Dyer is clearly smart and verbally dexterous, and I can see why he thought parallel narratives... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Martin Rowe
This may be one of my least favorite by Dyer... It's too similar to his others content wise and it gets pretty graphic. I'm not sure I would suggest this to a friend.Published 12 months ago by Toshia