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Paris Trance: A Romance Paperback – May 15, 2000

2.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,883,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
I was drawn in by this book after reading the first thirty pages or so. For me, the aimless strolls which Luke takes in the beginning of the novel were the most interesting parts of this novel. This is both ironic and unfortunate. It's unfortunate because I convinced myself to finish this awful book, hoping that it would pick up.

As soon as Luke makes friends and a girlfriend, the story dies. There are pages of irrelevant dialogue, meant to show the mutual interests between the characters. However, the dialogue falls flat and is boring. I can't tell you how many pages I skipped just because of the mundane conversation.

When Luke meets Nicole, it's the most shallow story of a relationship I've ever encountered. Luke is obsessed with her because she is beautiful and the only girl who would sleep with him in Paris. While this might sound on par with the plot and Luke's semi-desperation, it's written as completely lifeless as it sounds. Next, the reader will endure two hundred pages of this same lifelessness but punctuated with Dyer's desperate attempts to convince you of the relationship's vitality. To convince the reader, he says "strangers can feel their connection on the street" (to paraphrase). Who cares. I never gave a damn. He shows snapshots of their sex life, which are not describing love making, just quick literary perversions. There are about eight sex scenes in the book, and about seven of them are taboo acts that completely falter in the context because there is nothing ordinary or intimate described. It's all just unconventional penetration.

Ultimately, I felt like Dyer was trying to live vicariously through his characters. It's a sad desire because these are the most boring, unconvincing, trite characters living equally uninteresting lives, despite that they're supposed to be having "such a great time." I'm not convinced.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend, a fan of Dyer's, particularly of a book entitled "The Colour of Memory", which is about artists and punks hanging around in Brixton, London. Apparently Dyer grew up there - a kid from a tough neighborhood who became a literary success. I wanted to like this book and was anticipating that I would, and even went out and bought another one of his books before finishing this one. This story concerns two young couples, in love, in their twenties, and in Paris - all experiences I can relate to. I was all prepared to like it --but I didn't.

This dull parade of insignificant scenes tries to show the ordinariness of love, the way that it just happens as a part of everyday occurrences - but instead it comes across like somebody describing their weekend to you. If a writer tries to hide the extraordinary within the ordinary, hoping for some sort of subtle lifelike experience, he risks presenting the reader with only the ordinary. And if a story is going to march along in that fashion, than it should have interesting characters. Alas this one does not. The two girlfriends in the story, Sahra and Nicole, are so similar, and similarly uninteresting, that I frequently got them mixed up before realizing that it did not matter anyway. The story is told by one of the two English guys, Alex, although you don't realize that he is the narrator until the end. There is no real reason for this, other than just to be clever.

The main focus of the story is Luke, and he is presented as some sort of tragically romantic figure, a man so committed to living and loving in the moment that life eventually passes him by, and he ends up barely living at all. He comes to Paris to write a novel, but writes nothing.
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