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Paris Trance: A Romance Paperback – May 15, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Recipe for a millennial novel about twentysomethings living abroad: Take two couples and combine with equal parts desperation and languid slacking. Gently blend with just a pinch of romance. Actually, on second thought, just dump a whole lot of sex into the pot and bring to a boil. Sprinkle with lengthy discussions about the merits of particular movies, directors, etc. Finally, just add drugs. Ready to serve!

Geoff Dyer's Paris Trance is full of these ingredients. Luke and Alex are Englishmen living in Paris, spending their days packing books in a warehouse and spending their free time playing football and quoting sections of dialogue from Blade Runner. Soon they hook up with their respective mates--Luke with Nicole, Alex with Sahra--and proceed to party heavily.

What distinguishes this novel from its hip brethren is its ability to evoke a sense of coziness with these expatriates, to the point where their idle chitchat seems utterly familiar, if benign. Here's some of the loopy, go-nowhere dialogue with which Dyer fills their mouths:

"I can't imagine not being with him, either," said Nicole. "But I can imagine him not being with me--but I can't imagine him being with anyone else. Whereas although I can't imagine me not being with him, I can imagine me being with someone else. Does that make sense? I'm not sure I followed it myself."
Neither are we. But that's beside the point. Paris Trance succeeds and fails on its own set of criteria--how to capture a moment in time and preserve a feeling within it. In this case the feeling is a dreamy, warm one. --Ryan Boudinot --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"Whatever makes events into a story is almost entirely missing from what follows," claims the narrator of this alluring pseudo-memoir of a blissful interlude lost and remembered. Fashionable fin-de-si?cle lack of faith in the cohesion of experience or the ability of language to contain it detracts nothing from the lyrical intelligence of Dyer's (Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence) wittily British "story" of two men playing expat in ParisAone of whom, Alex, is the unstated narrator, though he refers to himself in the third person. The story is this: 27-year-old Luke Barnes has left England for Paris in order to write a novel, but life overtakes his plans. He finds a friend in Alex, who shares his fascination with filmAa medium with the capacity, like music, to repeat itself endlessly. Luke meets and falls in love with Nicole, a beautiful Yugoslavian finishing her studies in Paris; Alex's partner is Sahra, an interpreter also new to the city. The two couples spend their time in search of the ultimate experience, the eternal "now." They vacation together, experiment with sex and drugs and go to dance clubs where the trance-like music prescribes "no distance or direction." Inevitably, ecstasy loses its edge, and as if compelled to enact the ending of one of his beloved films, Luke moves away. When Alex encounters him years later, Luke has embraced a lonely anonymity. The book ends not with this hopeless finality, though, but with the description of a rapturous, timeless afternoon by the sea enjoyed by the four lovers in their heyday. Thus, by writing the novel that Luke should have written, Alex succeeds, to an extent, in conquering time, in giving himself "the chance to rearrange, alter, change; to make things end differently." Hypnotic and evocative, this complicated novel is a superb re-creation of an idyllic time, the dreamy druggy Eden of golden youth. (May) in criticism.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; First Edition edition (May 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865476004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865476004
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,122,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Geoff Dyer is the author of four novels and six other nonfiction books, including But Beautiful, which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Prize, and Out of Sheer Rage, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. The winner of a Lannan Literary Award, the International Centre of Photography's 2006 Infinity Award for writing on photography, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters' E. M. Forster Award, Dyer is a regular contributor to many publications in the US and UK. He lives in London. For more information visit Geoff Dyer's official website:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. Kennedy on December 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book not expecting much. It seemed to be an example of someone trying to recreate the books of the lost generation in post-modern dress. I thought it would fail to be something new. I was astounded at how wrong I was. This book has some major faults but they are sandwhiched between large segments of the novel that are amazingly brilliant. This is, perhaps, the best look at the feelings of early love Ive ever read. The book is a deep look at beauty and happiness, asnd the degree to which moments of happiness survive the passage of time. Dyer brilliantly uses a second person narrator who admitedly tells the reader mental thoughts of the characters that he could not know. He has decided that since the main character will not tell his story, he must do it for him and he must fill in the holes. He does so in brilliant fashion. He captures what it is like to be twentysomething and in love, he captures what it is like to be in love in Paris, and he manages to capture the spirit of lawrence, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Dos Passos WITHOUT it feeling like a retelling of modernism. The book is definitively post-modern both in style and message, but still manages to update the tropes founded by The Sun Also Rises. A must read for any fan of post-modernism OR the lost generation. Dyer may well be Britain's most promising young writer. This is a life-affirming novel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
Just as a drunk's jokes fall flat before those who are sober, so drug induced experiences are surreal to those whose awareness has not been chemically altered. Such is often the case in Paris Trance, the seventh novel by English author/journalist Geoff Dyer. One wishes to empathize with the characters, but finds it difficult to relate.
This puzzling rather incohesive tale of misspent youth set in the City of Light covers several years in the lives of four twenty-something expatriates who trade arch remarks, go to many movies (Cassavetes films being a special favorite), are often strung out on Ecstasy, and have non-stop sex.
Luke arrives in Paris from England with the announced intention of writing a book, but he never sets pen to paper. He is lonely, yet neglects to learn French, and wanders aimlessly until he finds work at the Garnier Warehouse overseen by Lazare, who seeks contentment in "whipping himself into a froth of anger and irritation."
It is at the warehouse that Luke meets Alex, a fellow Britisher and film buff with whom he becomes fast friends as "there was an immediate ease and sympathy between them."
"They flourished in each other's company, their intimacy increased as they met more people. Things Alex said in groups were always addressed implicitly to Luke; other people were used as a way of reflecting back something Luke intended primarily for Alex."
Shortly thereafter Luke meets and becomes involved with Nicole, a Belgrade, who came to Paris on a scholarship and now works as a translator. Alex partners with Sahra, an interpreter from Libya. The foursome become inseparable, sharing meals, holidays, and dancing the nights away with drug fueled energy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Steger on March 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Paris Trance is both a novel and an elegy about romance, destiny, intimacy, and the rise and fall of an intense, short-lived friendship between two couples living an expatriate existence in 1990's Paris. The main character, Luke Barnes, arrives in Paris animated by a half-formed desire to write a novel, or perhaps make a film and live in a world of possibilities where one can move towards the center of one's own life; rapture, intimacy, consuming and discarding each moment. Luke forms a strong, brotherly bond with Alex, another Brit expat for whom Luke becomes one part of a vicariously lived whole. The two men hook up with girlfriends, and far too much time is spent on the humdrum details of each relationship/romance, which seems to slow the novel down considerably. But this problem is more than made up for by the strong focus on the bonds of friendship and intimacy between the two couples, deepend by the shared experience of tripping on ecstasy while being blasted by loud, house music until six o'clock in the morning; "They were still full of chemically engendered expectation but that anticipation was gradually coming to refer to the past, to something that had already taken place. They were wide wake, distracted, glowing." But Luke's quest to reach the peak of happiness, to "move to the center of one's own life" is seen by Sahra, Alex' girlfriend and Luke's friend, as a destructive flaw; "He doesn't really have emotions. Just appetites. At the moment he's as happy as a sandboy because there's so much still to gobble down. But what's he going to be like when he's tried it all ?Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Draper-gard on May 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
While the romp through Paris that is the center of the novel is, indeed, compelling, the central character Luke is difficult to identify with in that he totally lacks compassion. His viewing of his lover, Nicole, is obsessive and borderline clinical. Luke is in Paris ostensibly to write a book about the kind of life he ends up finding: a meandering existence filled with good conversation, ambitious and exploratory sex, and a fair smattering of alcohol and drug abuse. In other words, a riotously good, if not ambitious, time.

Luke develops a relationship with a coworker, Alex, who at times narrates the story and who, nearly always, idealizes and idolizes Luke for the qualities that he later finds to be his friends downfall. When Alex is not our narrator, the POV shifts to third person omniscient which actually suits the story better. It is far easier to watch the story unfold without the over the top narrative tone of Alex's recapping and rationalizing Luke's behavior. And frankly, there is no need for those sweeping moments of exposition because Dyer has done his job creating a lush world of characters with powerful inner lives as well as intriguing experiences. His fault, here, is in not allowing the characters to breathe and move freely but instead he ties them up a little too neatly.

The book is good, though. It was easy to read and made me want to read faster and more deeply to grasp the points I know the author is making even in the smallest details. And there is an image of a woman in a park holding a sign that breaks my heart utterly and image that, in its total and complete simplicity, sums up entirely what it means to be alone. And that is worth 4 stars.
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