Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and reviews
By Geoff Dyer
Of the many journalists, critics and novelists who try their hands at essay form, there are relatively few for whom the meandering style is the natural form of expression. However, a small group of writers as varied as E.B. White, George Orwell and John Berger produced much of their most memorable work in their essays. The British author and genre-bender Geoff Dyer is another such writer. As he admits in his introduction to this selection of his essays, "If something occurs that moves me deeply—the kind of experience that might provide inspiration for a poet—my first instinct is to articulate and analyze it in an essay."
There are two relationships that are ever-present in Dyer's reviews and dispatches: the relationship between life and art and the relationship between author and subject. Part of the liveliness of Dyer's essays is his willingness to abandon the concept of objective criticism and slip into his subjects' shoes. For this reason, many of the most insightful pieces are the ones where Dyer actually inhabits the physical space of his subjects. Some of Dyer's journeys, like his time in the desert with photographer Richard Misrach or his search for the lost Algiers of Albert Camus, feel almost like pilgrimages. Others, like the piece on time spent in an East Asian hotel with Def Leppard, mix social critique and ironic humor, illuminating and mocking the commercialization and replicability implicit in our epoch. In these moments Dyer's essays do what the essay does best—help the reader navigate the world, both real and imagined.