Saturday, April 25, 2009

Geoff Dyer

Kepler's was pleased to have Geoff Dyer read from his book, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanisi: A Novel.
Event host Terry Meagher writes about the event in his own inimitable style:
The real* Geoff Dyer arrived unescorted on a full stomach** around 7:10P. After the requisite pleasantries, he asked that I direct him to the remainder bin. I was concerned that Taschen had usurped all the bargain book tables; fortunately, there was the one at the South door.
A modest and gracious (not to mention tall – 6’6’’) Brit, Geoff read three excerpts from his novel: one involving a monkey, a pair of sunglasses, three bananas, and some intense negotiations; another in which the main character encounters the ferocious paintings of Tintoretto while high on cocaine; and a third in which Jeff and a German tourist have a fierce face-off while waiting in a queue at an A.T.M. .

The author was clearly sincere when he paused after the first two excerpts to thank the audience for its kind reception; his readings had been met with ripples if not laugh out loud laughter – particularly from the woman to my immediate right who seemed to do that George Bush shoulder jiggle every 15 seconds.

During Q& A Geoff discussed the origin of the idea for his novel. Having attended the 2004 Venice Biennale he couldn’t help but recall Thomas Mann’s classic novel and was soon musing about how he could rework it for the modern era. After he’d had something of a rough draft, he and his wife visited Varanasi and he was so struck by the watery cities similarities (both pilgrimage sites – one secular the other religious) that he restructured his novel into 2 long stories, their relationship intentionally ambiguous.

He mentioned the SF Chron review as the most insightful regarding his intent to link the two stories through subtle “invisible filaments” with “echoes” of the first story present in the second (Indeed, he hoped when people finished the novel, they would then reread the first story – one audience member [the guy from the Metro] actually had.) He liked the New Yorker article but didn’t quite appreciate James Woods’ attempt to also examine the book in context of his previous work (he feels all his books - fiction and nonfiction - are quite distinct and prefers to think of his oeuvre as thesis-proof).

About his writing process, Geoff said that while he is adept at noticing things others perhaps miss, he struggles with imagining stories - so he simply starts with an interesting scene and sees where it leads; there is no
pre-planned story arc diligently plotted on some excel spread sheet (i.e., Marisha Pessl, William T. Vollman). Once a basic draft is complete, he loves revising: editing, polishing, really nailing sentences. He did say that over the years he has come to realize how difficult, how much work, writing is and that it has become, ironically, an increasingly forbidding process (...aren't those encouraging words for the budding writer!).

Asked what he’s working on currently, Geoff mentioned he’s contemplating a nonfiction book on the game of tennis, his other passion.

*According to events coordinator, Pam, someone phoned the store early in the day claiming to be the author. His story was that he had to unexpectedly attend a funeral in Texas and had inadvertently left his wallet and cell phone on a plane now headed to California. Stranded, he asked that Kepler’s quickly wire him the funds to purchase a plane ticket so that he wouldn’t miss the evening’s event. Thanks to an A.B.A “alert” about just such a scam, Clark Kepler was suspicious and crank caller dealt with.* When I related the story to Geoff, he was rightly stunned and added “jeezz…and I don’t even own a cell phone!”

*Don’t these scammers realize that with just a few probing questions they’d be quickly exposed? (Had I been on the phone I would have immediately asked: “In your latest book what is the full name* of the woman that Jeff Atman – high as a kite on cocaine - seduces while on a Gondola at the 2004 Venice Biennale?”)

*The author never reveals her full name, she’s just Laura.

**Our colleague Rich had spotted the 6' 6" Geoff on Santa Cruz Ave. (he recognized the author from his jacket photo) apparently looking a bit overwhelmed by the plethora of restaurants on our humble Main Street. Rich directed him to the Left Bank which the author later told me in his charming British accent was "absolutely scrumptious!" Thx. Rich!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.