Article from: The Australian
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer (Text Publishing A$32.95), was released on Monday.
But a real slacker doesn't publish 11 books and hundreds of essay and articles, especially when the books have a bewildering range of topics and have tended to require intense research and earned glowing reviews. He has written only four novels and complains he is no good at plot and characterisation but others are happy to overlook those defects. Britain's The Sunday Telegraph has called him "England's greatest, if most reluctant, novelist".
Dyer's nonfiction topics have bounced from jazz to the work of D.H. Lawrence, from photography to World War I, an oeuvre far too diverse to build a following, even though writer Zadie Smith agrees "his prose is the equal of anyone in the country".
"Yes, I suppose it has created a problem in terms of developing a readership," Dyer concedes. "The 'smart' thing to do would be to build on the jazz book (But Beautiful, hailed by some as the best ever written on the topic) by writing another jazz book, but by the time I had finished the first one my interest had moved on ... as it tends to."
His agents, he says, are more resigned than frustrated by his working habits. And when it comes to Dyer's natural writing style -- part essay, part travelogue, part reportage, lots of facts and literary references and a dash of fiction -- his genre-bending can leave baffled bookshop staff placing the same title on the fiction, nonfiction and travel shelves.
His latest novel, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, has such an unusual structure that its two most prominent reviewers, Jan Morris and Lionel Shriver, managed to misunderstand a basic premise of the book. They assumed the first-person protagonist in the second half of the tome is the main character from the first half: a tall, greying, slightly aimless London-based writer who has an awful lot in common with Dyer but is named Jeff with a "J".