Merrily spinning a Thomas Mann-inflected yarn
This article is from 2009.
The main man in Geoff Dyer’s smartly-penned fourth novel Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi has a pretty devilish sense of humour. And it would seem that the same can be said for the character’s creator. So what does he have in store for us with his event alongside Otto de Kat? ‘I will try either to talk or read for the entire time so that he doesn’t get a chance to get a word in edgeways. Then, right at the end, to smooth things over, I’ll say, “sorry about that Otto, I just got carried away and lost all track of time. But maybe you could get me invited to a festival in the Netherlands and then I’m sure I’d be more time-conscious and we could have a proper chat”.’
Dyer describes his first novel for a decade as ‘a book of two halves. Lots of sex and coke in the first half, and all sorts of spiritual bollocks in the second, with the whole thing lightly drizzled with a pungent Thomas Mann reduction.’ As you might imagine, it’s a thoroughly compelling tale, but Dyer’s ability to spin a good yarn is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his creative output. ‘To be honest, I think that my last book, The Ongoing Moment, a history of photography, was as much a work of literature as many novels. It’s a shame that we have such a limited idea of where literariness might be found and what it might look like. I don’t place any greater value on my fiction than on the non-fiction.’