Geoff Dyer. Farrar Straus Giroux, $23 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-374-22981-8
""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 Paris--one 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 film--a 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) FYI: Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence is an NBCC nominee in criticism.
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999