Sunday, April 16, 2017

"Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews" by Geoff Dyer

ISBN: 978-1-55597-579-1 Graywolf Press

I'm a fan of a book of essays by particular writers. Not for the purpose of learning something new, but to be able to spend time with an author and his thoughts. If I don't like the author, I tend not to like the essays. I like Geoff Dyer. Therefore I like his book of essays "Otherwise Known as the Human Condition." What I like about him and his writings is that he has a great deal of interest in the world around him.

Besides being a literary critic, he also writes about photography, travel, and jazz. He's a writer who loves jazz. Boris Vian was a musician who wrote about jazz and was passionate about the subject, but far as I know, Dyer is not a musician. He has incredible insight into the music and is an excellent observer in what makes a jazz recording works or not work. The other great thing about his work is his brief memoirs that are towards the end of this volume. Personal, and very enticing invitation to his social world, and how he places himself in that landscape. There are also signs of his sexuality, not only to his attraction to women but apparently his attention to porn. He wrote a brief essay in this book regarding the hotel room, and how sexy such a room is to a gentleman. He also wrote about porn viewing in the hotel chambers. The fact that a hotel room is so clean (hopefully) makes it even more erotic. Nice observation on the nature of hotels.  

The book is large, and usually, I read a book of essays off and on. I tend to read three essays in a row, and put it down, and pick it up a month later. This book, I read from the first to the last page. As I mention, one of his great interests is in photography. And like his love for jazz, he is a viewer of photographs, without being a photographer. He has no interest in taking photos but enjoys writing on the subject. The distance between him and a passionate object is a right approach. At least for him. Nevertheless, Dyer is a fantastic writer. I enjoy dipping into his cosmos.  

- Tosh Berman

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