At a recent event for Harper’s, an interviewer asked Zadie Smith whom she counts among her favorite contemporary book reviewers. She immediately replied with one name: Geoff Dyer.
If you haven’t read Dyer, it’s likely you have a friend who is incredulous at such an omission. Dyer tends to incite fervor in readers: “You have to read this, now. Take my copy. Call in sick. Go to jury duty tomorrow.” I admit I am one such friend. And in the case of this month’s Work in Progress, I hope his essay “Reader’s Block” wins a few more converts.
The strange thing about this is that at twenty I imagined I would spend my middle age reading books that I didn’t have the patience to read when I was young. But now, at forty-one, I don’t even have the patience to read the books I read when I was twenty. At that age I plowed through everything in the Arnoldian belief that each volume somehow nudged me imperceptibly closer to the sweetness and light. I readWar and Peace, Anna Karenina, Ulysses, Moby Dick. I got through The Idiot even though I hated practically every page of it. I didn’t read The Brothers Karamazov:I’ll leave it till I’m older, I thought—and now that I am older I wish I’d read it when I was younger, when I was still capable of doing so.
Now go read the rest of it. Then read Out of Sheer Rage.
The other piece I’m excited about is Tristan Garcia’s interview in BOMB Magazine, which they’ve offered to post online for WIP subscribers. Garcia’s novel Hate: A Romance appeared and then quickly disappeared last fall, unfortunately. While it’s cliché to say it’s a novel unlike any I’d read before, I stand by it.
The book’s told in flashback by one member of a splintered group of French intellectuals, covering the sexual liberation and AIDS crises in the 1980s. The group sleeps with each other, cheats on each other, and forms extremist pro-HIV gay youth groups to publicly pillory each other. There are deep philosophical questions engaged by the plot, but they never crowd out the pathos or fall into tedium.
Anyways, the interview’s great, and the novel’s great. Hope you enjoy both.
And speaking of BOMB, they’re throwing in some prizes for the big Nerd Jeopardy event next week. Huzzah!