Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

Book - 2009
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A wildly original novel(what else would we expect from this fearless and funny writer?) that explores the underbelly of erotic fulfillment and spiritual yearning. Every two years the international art world descends on Venice for the opening of the Biennale. Among them is Jeff Atman--a jaded, dissolutely resolute journalist--whose dedication to the cause of Bellini-fuelled party-going is only intermittently disturbed by the obligation to file a story. When he meets Laura, he is rejuvenated, ecstatic. Their romance blossoms quickly but is it destined to disappear just as rapidly? Every day thousands of pilgrims head to the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi, the holiest Hindu city in India. Among their number is a narrator who may or may not be the Atman previously seen in Venice. Intending to visit only for a few days he ends up staying for months, and finds--or should that be loses?--a hitherto unexamined idea of himself,theself. In a romance he can only observe, he sees a reflection of the kind of pleasures that, willingly or not, he has renounced. In the process, two ancient and watery cities become versions of each other. Could two stories, in two different cities, actually be one and the same story? Nothing Geoff Dyer has written before is as wonderfully unbridled, as dead-on in evocation of place, longing, and the possibility of neurotic enlightenment, as irrepressibly entertaining asJeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2009
Characteristics: 296 p. ; 25 cm
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780307377371
Call Number: FICTION DYER

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BertBailey
Jul 30, 2014

Certainly one of the most inspired titles for a book I've ever known: seldom fails to raise a chuckle, obviously with reference to Mann's masterpiece. So Dyer is irreverent with this book, but is he good? Well, some parts were most enjoyable and well-written, yet others seem cobbled in from travel and other bits of writing. Some parts are impressively written and humous, yet others strike me as showing a decided loss of interest in the romance that allured readers at the ouset, along with paragraphs from his own travelogues (for which the protagonist was presumably hired,) etc. Then the narrator invokes a levity that fits the protagonist more than the straight narrating eye, and things begin to dissolve in this way. There's not much plot or focus to fix on, after all, while what should be incidental--the love interest and the art exhibits--turns out to be pretty much all there was, in the end. In fact, as I approached the end of Jeff in Venice (which would have sufficed as a stellar title), I had to wonder: what would propel me to read on, into Death in Varanasi? Not much, as it turns out...

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itstartswithano
Apr 29, 2011

I don't know how I felt about this book. There were parts I loved and parts I felt very "meh" about. Watch out for the sex scenes if you're someone who blushes easily.

debwalker Dec 10, 2010

"Yes, it's technically a novel, but you also have to take into account the fact that Geoff Dyer is, well, Geoff Dyer, and the usual rules about any genre simply do not apply to him. There is magic in this tale and I was utterly spellbound."
Top Ten Books of 2010: Robert Gray

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epiccolo
Jan 30, 2010

Really well written with a very engaging protagonist. One of the best works of fiction I have read this year. The story draws us so completely into the point of view of Jeff and we are having so much fun, that it quite chilling when we step back at the end and realize what he has done to himself- the self-destruction inherent in his journey.

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