cover image Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews

Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews

Geoff Dyer, Graywolf, $18.95 paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-55597-579-1

In this new collection of previously published writings, Dyer (Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi) traverses a broad territory stretching from photographers such as Richard Avedon and William Gedney (“His gaze is neither penetrating nor alert but, on reflection, we would amend that verdict to accepting”); musicians Miles Davis and Def Leppard; writers like D.H. Lawrence, Ian McEwan, and Richard Ford; as well as personal ruminations on, say, reader’s block. In a fond tribute to the power and beauty of Albert Camus’s life and work, Dyer reflects on his own encounters with the writer’s work in Algeria: “Coming here and sitting by this monument, rereading these great essays, testaments to all that is the best in us, is a way of delivering personally my letter of thanks.” In a masterful essay on W.G. Sebald and Thomas Bernhard, Dyer writes: “The comic obsessiveness and neurosis common to many of Sebald’s characters is like a sedated version of the relentless, raging frenzy into which Bernhard’s narrators habitually drive themselves.” Dyer’s writing does what the best critical writing always does, encouraging us to view, read, or listen closely to art, literature, and music as well as to pay close attention to various cultural forms and their impact on our personal lives. (Mar.)