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Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews Paperback – March 29, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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“Mr. Dyer's new book, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition, is a collection of his occasional prose. . . . They're 'bits and bobs,' he writes, but he takes them more seriously than that, and so should anyone who cares about joyous, wriggling sentences composed in the English language.” ―Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“There's a restless current to these essays, as if a net were being thrown ever wider in search of fresh versions of that original burst of aesthetic delight, literature, which managed to turn a working-class grammar school boy from Cheltenham into an international 'man of letters.' . . . This is what I find most remarkable about Dyer: his tone. Its simplicity, its classlessness, its accessibility and yet its erudition--the combination is a trick few British writers ever pull off. . . . [Dyer's humor is] what separates him from Berger and Lawrence and Sontag: it's what makes these essays not just an education, but a joy.” ―Zadie Smith, Harper's Magazine
“You read Dyer for his caustic wit, of course, his exquisite and perceptive crankiness, and his deep and exciting intellectual connections, but from these enthralling rants and cultural investigations there finally emerges another Dyer, a generous seeker of human feeling and experience, a man perhaps closer than he thinks to what he believes his hero Camus achieved: 'a heart free of bitterness.'” ―Sam Lipsyte, Very Short List
“Dyer's writing does what the best critical writing always does, encouraging us to view, read, or listen closely to art, literature, and music as well as to pay close attention to various cultural forms and their impact on our personal lives.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“All of Dyer's work holds together very well indeed, but what holds it together is a voice, which becomes a persona. It's a very English, low-key, plainspoken, unassuming voice that invites you in, and can become intimate but not too intimate, and can smoothly transit between comedy and gravity. It takes on flesh in his reported pieces and personal essays and some of his fiction, and there it is often richly and sometimes darkly comic--self deprecating, stubborn, canny, forlorn, worldly, hapless, serious, romantic, dissipated.” ―Luc Sante, Bookforum
“While contemporary writers such as David Shields decry the need to erase the lines between fiction and nonfiction, for years, Dyer has been exemplar, churning out smart essays with his own cocktail of fact and fiction, private and public, myth and truth and has proven that rigorous criticism and writing arises out of more than just an esoteric bookshelf. Good writing, it appears, begins with seeking what moves us.” ―Bookslut
“[These are] brilliantly witty, surprising essays.” ―The Daily Beast
“Geoff Dyer has won several prizes, all deserved. When you read accounts of Dyer's work you'll find praiseful critics comparing him to vast numbers of writers, hurling their comparisons into the useless heap that follows him everywhere he goes. I myself often think of G.K. Chesterton for the constant and dazzling flow of paradoxes in his prose.” ―Jonathan Lethem, BOMB
“The essay collection 'is considered a pretty low form of book,' in Dyer's estimation, and yet Otherwise Known may be Dyer's masterpiece: a living journal documenting the wealth of his interests, the depth of his insights, and a stealthily powerful argument for the essay, not the novel, as the richest mode of contemporary letters. . . . And let us be thankful that this polymath chose to ignore his father's own words of wisdom: 'Never put anything in writing.'” ―The Boston Globe
“Again and again, Dyer pairs an uncommonly precise description of what a particular artist does with an equally compelling, unexpected reason for why it is important. There are few more valuable things that a critics can accomplish in a review, . . . and Dyer's mastery of them is a testament to his achievement.” ―The Barnes & Noble Review
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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.Published on May 24, 2013 by George Helland
I was pretty bored while reading these essays. Maybe it's the cultural difference between the US and Britain, but these were dull.Published on October 19, 2012 by Mariah Reynolds
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. Read more