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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2011
I don't normally write reviews on Amazon but for this book I simply had to. Dyer's essays are amazing! I'm only 50 or so pages into the book but I had to sit down and write this review right now. I know that my opinion will not change - it's a wonderful book! Being a Literature person in college and grad school, I've heard of a lot of the folks Geoff is writing about in the "Verbals" section, but as for the other sections, I'm mostly clueless. Sure I've heard of Avedon and Metinides and Rodin and Def Leppard. But do I know anything about them, really? Other than that they were photographers or sculptors or musicians? No! But that's the really great thing about this book: you don't need to know a thing about any of these people, or their work, to appreciate what Dyer is saying about them. It's all fairly philosophical and subjective and meandering....and beautiful. He mixes quick, torpedo-like statements of opinion with drifting and rambling thoughts. It feels like Dyer wrote the book with the intention of readers strolling through it slowly, as if they're walking along a winding path through a dense forest. The torpedoes are meant to shake you awake, but then, really, he just lets you keep meandering at your own pace, leisurely, pleasurably. I couldn't help but write all over the pages. Some parts go faster than others, some parts are more detailed, and some parts are more interesting. But as a whole, the entire forest is really quite beautiful. So far, reading Dyer's essays has been both fascinating and illuminating. I've learned more about photography from reading the first five essays in this book than I ever have before in my life.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2011
I love Geoff Dyer. He's brilliant. He's hilarious. He's smart as hell. But this collection is an utter failure. The pieces are too short and too occasional to be of interest. And, believe it or not, this is a revision of a former collection of his occasional essays! My god, this guy has an ego. But, repeat, I *love* this writer, so, presumably, I should love everything he writes. But I didn't and that, my friends, is the measure of how bad this collection is. Even the piece on sex in hotels is boring. It's all sad and boring. I wish I hadn't read it, as it has diminished my abundant enthusiasm for the author.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2012
I always thought that if someone cares about something deeply enough (and provided they are reasonably good at articulating it), then I will want to read it, no matter the subject. This book kind of overturned that.

Geoff Dyer is a special species of aesthete. Or maybe just an extreme example of an aesthete. The aesthete of all aesthetes. This is a man who cares more deeply about aesthetics and beauty than most of us care about our mother. It would be fair to use the term "obsessive." He speaks of jazz musician Don Cherry with a saintly if not creepy reverence. He will plead passersby to tell him where he can find a Doughnut Plant doughnut. He will organize his entire day around the right cup of cappuccino. The man can't help but to write essays examining the merits of chained-bicycle street memorials.

This all makes for a fascinating read, at least for a while. Geoff Dyer is the first person I would go to for an assessment of an object's aesthetic merits, but reading 415 pages of those assessments was for me - someone who could fairly be called an aesthete himself - sort of tiresome.

The troubling part is that Dyer's concern for aesthetics seems to supersede his concern for anything else, like, well, people. His concern is more for the chained-bicycle street memorials than for the people they memorialize. His concern is more for the immaculate fluffiness of hotel bathrobes than for the people who wear them. His concern is more for his mate's opinion of Burning Man than it is for the woman who will be attending Burning Man with him. He calls her "the woman that I had recently started sleeping with." (Notice he uses "that" instead of "who.")

If you don't share his deep passion for these things, the overall feeling from this book is one not of aesthetic appreciation but of profound loneliness.

Regardless, I'd recommend reading at least a couple of the essays/reviews because this man has such a depth of concern for aesthetics that he penetrates them to a level that we ordinary folks cannot fathom.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Dyer likes the odds-and-ends he's gathered from '89-'10. Doughnuts, desert, lots of sex and drugs, photographers, jazz, book and art and music reviews, and autobiographical fragments fill these readable pages. Even when the topic didn't interest me, at least I paid attention, in case I might get interested. The unpredictability of his observations keeps you as alert as he is to what appears total recall of whatever this enviable Oxford grad (even if working-class background and after university unemployed for a long stretch) has seen, read, or done. His diaries unearthed from the early '80s attest to both his powers of recollection and his occasional lapses, which themselves gain, ironically, lavish documentation in his attempts at recalling when he was fired, when he met so-and-so, when he bedded her, when he got high with him, while thriving on the dole.

He has somehow constructed a career "as a gate-crasher" doing whatever he wants, writing when he wishes, wandering when he doesn't, or when he gets a magazine to pay for his expenses to write. A Serbian bus driver, sex in hotels, Airfix model planes and Marvel comics, unwanted books, being an only child. What appeals here as in his fiction and travel reporting and non-fiction remains his ability to capture a restless, disheveled mood. In Algeria, he remembers his stay. "In a restaurant--womanless, smoky--I order a beer. It comes in a green bottle and that is the major pleasure it affords. The food--chicken, brochettes, couscous--comes on a plate and half of it stays there."

One aspect that could have improved this collection? It begins with many eloquent essays from catalogues of photographic exhibits. Yet, few photos are included. This forces a reader to rely more on Dyer's evident skill with words to tell us what is shown, but often, it's frustrating to have so few examples as illustrations. That being said, William Gedney's power as an artist leaps off the printed page, thanks to Dyer's verbal skill.

An encounter with Def Leppard ends perfectly; another with Richard Misrach's photos and the Utah sand flats ends with a scene "like a contemporary monument to the Donner Party," where "a family car has sunk up to its axles in an area of sudden mud." Rebecca West's massive "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" represents for Dyer a model of sprawling reflection on his own Balkan quest: "as a kind of metaphysical 'Lonely Planet' that never requires updating." The strength of this admittedly diverse and diffuse anthology for all its "unruly" assembly testifies to West's disciple, another restless and engaging guide to one eccentric, lively, and unfailingly erudite, take on his--and perhaps our-- human condition.
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on May 24, 2013
Some of the articles are the revealing, insightful Geoff Dyer that keeps me coming back. Others touch no part of me. Glad I bought it.
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14 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2011
I am going to be very Dyeresque by saying, I am not sure if I want to enjoy reading this book slowly or fast. Do I begin at the beginning or just randomly read the essays as they catch my fancy. Do I want to finish reading the book? Or do I want to enjoy them over time??? Just looking at the book makes my heart skip beats and my lips smile. So many decisions. So far I have read several essays and I never, ever want the book to end! Thanks Geoff!
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2012
I was pretty bored while reading these essays. Maybe it's the cultural difference between the US and Britain, but these were dull.
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2012
I had read a few great reviews for this, so I thought I would read it.
I wish I hadn't.
I can't believe how badly written and how badly edited it was.
The writing is lazy and sloppy AND JUST PLAIN BAD!
Even worse, he really didn't have much insight about anything. He prattled on and on, in love with the sound of his own voice, without putting anything into context or offering any true illumination.
Why was this so well reviewed? It is a terrible, self-indulgent, boring book.
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7 of 20 people found the following review helpful
These essays all read like College writing class assignments. Pedestrian views of his own, mixed with just a few other sources by the same few authors. It's all very lazy and tedious, especially when he over-analyzes photos that I can barely make out in the kindle edition.
I found myself jumping around the book, looking for something to sink my teeth into. I gave up.
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