Surfing the Zeitgeist

Gilbert Adair, Author Faber & Faber $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-571-17991-6
British writer Adair has an imposing record with three novels, books on film such as Hollywood's Vietnam and Flickers and one of the more convincing acts of translation with his version of Georges Perec's ""e""-less A Void. This collection of short, occasional essays he wrote for London's Sunday Times is less impressive. He covers a range of contemporary subjects--""On decadence"" and ""On Freud"" to ""On AIDS""--but all are rather lightweight. Adair tries, ultimately unsuccessfully, to give his book the kind of sharp, witty analyses of popular foibles found in Roland Barthes's Mythologies. But part of the problem is that Adair's reflections do not travel well, since they are too often based on what he read in the British press or saw on a British stage the day before; he quotes a theater critic like Michael Billington as if he were well known, not just in England but all over the world, which is certainly not the case. Moreover, even for the London Times in its current sadly decomposed state, the comments here are often trite, such as in ""On melody,"" when he wonders why the tune of Gershwin's ""Summertime"" ""took so long"" to be discovered by a composer, any composer at all. The same holds true with jokes, as when he suggests in ""On American presidents"" that Jimmy Carter should star ""in a play entitled A Streetcar Named Retire."" Such problems might be forgiven a writer faced with a newspaper deadline, but the mistake is in immortalizing them. This prolific author will no doubt soon offer a new book of greater value on one of his pet themes, films or France. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-571-31982-4
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