Sunday, April 11, 2010

Book nine: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer.

I'm glad I'm not a real book reviewer.  Because I really don't know what to say about Geoff Dyer's novel Jeff in Venice, Death in Varansi.  I guess I'd start with the basics.  The book is divided into two parts.  In the first part, a hack journalist named Jeff is sent from his home in London to Venice to cover the Biennale. He's thrown into a world of parties for the rich and connected, eventually meeting a beatiful American  named Laura.  The two have a torrid affair fueled by drugs and raunchy sex.

For the second part, the voice changes to first person and we never learn the name of the protagonist.  He may or may not be the same person as the protagonist in the first part and we don't know if this section takes place before, during, or after the first story in the book.  Here our protagist is a last minute replacement for a freelance writer who's taken ill. The replacement writer leaves for Varanasi, India to do a travel story.  He ultimately is seduced by the city and never leaves, becoming more and more like the city itself.

A portion of the title references Thomas Mann's novella, Death in Venice.  And the book actually starts with the same opening line.  Many lines that are taken from that book and others that are noted in the acknowledgments. (Which, by the way, is one of the most well-written acknowledgments I've ever read.)

While I enjoyed the first half of the book, largely because of the inside look at the art world, the overall read was a little tedious.  This is a book that may also be too intellectual for me.  Both books are filled with references that were lost on me, although I certainly do better with the contemporary art references rather than with the myriad literary references.  This book is worth the read if you're interested in the Venice Biennale or culture of Varanasi.  Otherwise, I'd skip this one. 

1 comment:

  1. So it is a good thing we didn't pick this one for book club then.