09 May 2011

Otherwise Known as the Human Condition

Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews26. Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews by Geoff Dyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're not already a fan of Geoff Dyer, as I most certainly am, then I would look at the categories in the contents to see what might strike your fancy. "Visuals" are essays about photographers for the most part as well as a painter and sculptor or two. Most contain an image or two which lets you see what Dyer's describing, pondering, and deconstructing. I read these and feel we have love for a number of photographers in common.

"Verbals" are reviews of books and authors. It was a bit dry for me since I hadn't read most of the books, and yet it also contained my favorite quote of the book, from John Cheever's The Journals. I wouldn't have encountered Cheever's words otherwise.
To disguise nothing, to conceal nothing, to write about those things that are closest to our pain, our happiness; to write about my sexual clumsiness, the agonies of Tantalus, the depths of my discouragement––I seem to glimpse it in my dreams––my despair. To write about the foolish agonies of anxiety, the refreshment of our strength when these are ended; to write about our painful search for self, jeopardized by a stranger in the post office, a half-seen face in a train window; to write about the continents and populations of our dreams, about love and death, good and evil, the end of the world.

Then comes "Musicals," a series of musings on jazz, Indian music (must remember to find some Ramamani to listen to), and Def Leppard.

"Variables" tread closer to the humorous, autobiographical travel essays of Dyer's I love. In particular, "The Wrong Stuff," where he relates his experience getting to fly in a MiG-29 fighter jet; his observations during fashion week while on assignment from Vogue while knowing nothing about couture in "Fabulous Clothes," and his experience of "The 2004 Olympics" which reminded me so much of my own.

Finally, there is the "Personals" category which is just what it sounds like. My favorites here are "Comics in a Man's Life," "Otherwise Known as the Human Condition (with particular reference to Doughnut Plant doughnuts)," and "Of Course."

Overall, the essays flow from one to the next quite well. You'll read an article on one photographer and then may see them referenced in the next. Someone did a very good job of arranging these.

Definitely worth a read, though if you're new to Dyer, I might start with Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It or Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence.

A year ago on TTaT: Sketchbook, page 27

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