Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"White Sands", a new book of essays from Geoff Dyer

A new book of essays by Geoff Dyer is always somewhat of an event here.  This latest did not disappoint,which is reassuring, but it also did not break any significant new ground.  It was an entertaining, wryly humorous, group of completely eclectic stories.  Events for Dyer's writing are just starting points for his wandering provocative thoughts that can hit a memory or a nerve at any time.

Many of Dyer's recurring themes are here.  Photography as an art form,  jazz and the musicians that have created it, certain writers such as D. H. Lawrence and Don DeLillo, eccentric outdoor art displays, and travel, always travel.  These essays span a distance between Tahiti, the Forbidden City, West Texas, Los Angeles, the plains of Utah, and northernmost Norway.  In a search for the Northern Lights, Dyer notes that the Norwegian word for stroll is best translated as "grim battle for survival".

The subtitle for this book is "Experiences from the Outside World".  That is one way to tie all of this together.  The favorite of the essays here was "Forbidden City", to some extent for personal experiences but also because the ending was left open, like life in an appealing way.  The concluding essay of the book, "Beginning", recounts Dyer's experience of having a minor stroke in 2014, totally unexpected and at first thought to be without any prior symptoms or habits that could have caused it.  In fact, several neurologists and specialists could not determine the reason for the stroke but it was completely evident on an MRI that he had one.  He recovered, and musing as the end of day in his Venice Beach bungalow, he closes the essay writing, "The water is glowing turquoise, the sky is turning crazy pink, the lights of the Santa Monica Ferris wheel are starting to pulse and spin in the twilight.  Life is so interesting I'd like to stick around forever, just to see what happens, how it all turns out."

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