LIVE from the NYPL: Geoff Dyer | Paul Holdengräber

June 10, 2014

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A writer whose work defies easy categorization, Geoff Dyer recounts tales from Another Great Day at Sea, his new book on the complexities of life on board a U.S. aircraft carrier.

Geoff  Dyer is the author of  four  novels: Paris Trance, The Search, The Colour of Memory, and, most recently, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi; a critical study of John Berger, Ways of Telling;  five  genre-defying titles: But Beautiful, The Missing of the Somme, Out of Sheer Rage, Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It, and The Ongoing Moment. His collection of essays, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition, won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2012. He is also the editor of John Berger: Selected Essays and co-editor, with Margaret Sartor, of What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney. A new book, Another Great Day at Sea, about life aboard the USS George H W Bush, will be published in May.

In 2003 he was a recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship;  in 2005 he was elected  a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; in 2006 he received the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 2009 he was  the recipient of  the Bollinger  Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Best Comic Novel and the GQ Writer of the Year  Award (for Jeff in Venice Death in Varanasi).  


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Geoff Dyer as representative of letters gone wrong

A graduate of Williams, and later of Viet-Nam, I try to keep mind and body in shape. Via another website I ran across a video of the excellent talk by the former Greek Finance Minister and Chomsky. I do not agree with much of what either opined but there was much pure fact in it and I was fascinated. Congratulations to all concerned.

Then, looking over your archived Talks, I cam across Mr. Dyer, whose literary bio looked interesting. In listening to Mr. Dyer read a chapter in his latest book, however, a chapter both he and your presenter agreed iss an impressive introduction to his work, I got crotchety. He had reached a (warranted) conclusion that Tom Wolff, in the '60's, had written better about life on an aircraft carrier than he was able to do--and then went into a delusional fugue of a notion comparing his inability to finish writing his book with the growing awareness of a Navy combat pilot who was becoming obsessed with an increasing fear of landing his aircraft on 'postage stamp' decks despite having done it so many times.

First of all, this by-now common tendency of writers to project themselves into their narratives is an ego trip that detracts from whatever good work they may be doing in the process of producing the book. Second, the height of absurdity this author reaches with his comparison is....insulting.

I raise this point only in the hope the Library does not dignify with publicity other books of such a self-absorbed type.