54 of 69 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi: A Novel (Hardcover)
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The unwieldy title of this book is indicative of its troubles. JEFF IN VENICE, DEATH IN VARANASI offers two novellas, two continents, and two somewhat listless narratives in search of some grounding. The first novella, written in the 3rd person limited, chronicles the tale of a self-absorbed, hedonist Brit in the Italian city as a freelance writer covering an art festival (the Biennale). Though in his 40's, our protagonist (Jeff Atman) dyes his hair and acts in general like an untethered frat boy as he chases down party invites, quaffs as many free drinks as possible, and hunts up skirts. The writing itself is crisp (thus 3 stars), but you'll be offering your kingdom for a plot after awhile, unless you're perfectly content to read vast stretches of self-satisfied witticisms in the form of cocktail chat. Certain readers may pass on the cocktails and go straight for the tail in the form of some rather randy scenes where Jeff scores repeatedly with the fair -- and oh, so game -- Laura (it must be all that art putting them in the mood for something graphic).
Reaching the end of the first piece and shrugging, we move on to India with a nameless 1st-person protagonist as our new host. This novella, less "modern" in feel, comes off like a travel book, rich in details about the squalid Indian city, the filthy Ganges, and the constant funeral pyres -- metaphoric, perhaps, for a tandem of books that don't quite mesh and don't quite grab the reader by the lapels?
Fans of parties, booze, and sex (Round One) and fans of Hindu rituals, travel writing, and kangaroos (if you get that far in Round Two, you'll see) may be confused as to why these odd bedfellows share a dust jacket, but the writing isn't bad and Dyer's a gamer -- too bad he just can't get it off the ground.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 26, 2010 10:30:53 AM PDT
L. Hopper says:
Thank you for this review -- you are much kinder than I. I hate, hate, hated this book. I didn't need to know that Laura's pubic hair was trimmed into a narrow band. That detail made me furious! The sex, and whether he was going to get it, were the only semblances of action and plot to be found. The narrator was a loser, and this book is a loser.
In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2010 5:28:24 PM PDT
John Q. Public says:
Why did the detail about her pubic hair make you furious (putting aside the lack of plot, etc)? It was hardly the most graphic observation about her person.
Posted on May 26, 2016 7:38:44 PM PDT
Lauri E says:
I agree with pretty much everything you said. With Death in Varanasi, I kept expecting a plot to emerge, but it never did...read more like a travel book as you mentioned. Sorry I wasted my time with this.
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