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I've been a Geoff Dyer fan for years and I hit a wall of disappointment listening to "Jeff in Venice". I couldn't figure out why the text even existed. Who could care about the sex life and gorged ego of the lead character? There is little reason to read this first half of the book although I forced myself to finish it.
"Death in Varanasi" is a fresh start with the same, or similar, character. Only one problem with "Varanasi." The narrator doesn't know how to pronounce the name of the city. It drove me wacky listening to him mispronounce it over and over again. Finally, I learned to ignore his pronunciation and fell deeply into the story. This is a great tale of "neurotic enlightenment." I started listening to "Venice" again after finishing "Varanasi," but it still wasn't worth the time. I listened "Varanasi" again and fell into it with a new level of comprehension. This is a great short novel. Five stars for "Death in Varanasi" minus one star for pronunciation. No stars for "Jeff in Venice." Simply ignore it.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I am so surprised at some of these reviews. This is a real thought piece, not something to be taken at face value. To the reviewer who "hated Jeff in Venice", you were supposed to hate him. Here the Biennale represents the height of contemporary decadence. It is one long string of vacuous conversations, holding together a narrative of sex and drugs that make up the contemporary art scene. It's easy to make fun of contemporary art. Dyer takes it one step further and has written a scathing critique of the entire art world. Anyone picking this up and hoping for Thomas Mann will be disappointed. This is Tom Wolf, unleashed on the new millennium.
The book changes gears rapidly and beautifully when we get to Varanasi. The western comparisons to Venice are there, as we witness a transformation of the main character. He enters onto a zen journey into the "true and universal self". After all, isn't that what Atman means?
This is a great contemporary novel. One worth either listening to, or reading, carefully.