Book Review 8/42: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi (or “Am I shallow for wanting ‘plot’? Why yes, yes I am.”)

So I have a list of 42 books I am supposed to read before (“buying others” – yeah, good luck with that).

And I absolutely have not read two Jack Reacher novels in the midst of this. Absolutely not.

Now it is over to book 8, (there’s no particular order, btw).

It is a 2009 effort by Geoff (not Jeff) Dyer. Liked his sympathetic critique of John Berger, back in the day and met him at a book signing – affable, clearly smart.

This book, two novellas about “Jeff Atman” come across as if Clive James and Jay McInerney (early, ‘Less than Zero’ McInerney had got together to do a pastiche/homage/whatever about, well, Thomas Mann, post-modernism, whatever, and then had Gilbert Adair add a few apercus.

So, if you like that sort of thing, you’ll like this. If you don’t, you, er, won’t.

Atman (not Dyer – definitely not Dyer) is an art/travel hack who gets to go to the Biennale and think about how he hates writing about art poseurs, while being an art poseur. And loathing himself for knowing this. There’s cocaine, sex, pretension, architecture, the curtain is thoroughly pulled back. Tick tick tick.

Then he goes to India, where all good pomo novels go to (not) die. And stays there, specifically in Benares/Varanasi. And Nothing Happens. Repeatedly. Except it does. Sort Of.

Look, I am being unkind, and possibly unfair. This is extremely well-written, well-observed, funny when it means to be, serious when it means to be.

Am I shallow for wanting more of a plot (not car chases and explosions, just, plot). Why yes, yes I am. There is however, a most definite sense of an ending here, sure….

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