Working the Room

by Geoff Dyer.


Working the Room

Geoff Dyer groups this collection of essays into four sections—Visuals, Verbals, Variables and Personals—to reflect, respectively, pieces about the visual arts (mainly photography), literature, miscellaneous stuff, and personal stuff. I read it on my Kindle, so the Visuals section turned out to be less enjoyable than it should have been due to my Kindle's limitations reproducing images. But the essays are very well observed and entertaining, and often pretty funny. Laugh-out-loud funny in a few places.

Some choice Kindle clippings for you:

  • Forty years on, my father is still traumatised by the extraordinary price of the choc-ice we almost bought outside Madame Tussaud’s during that trip to London.
  • [D.H.] Lawrence probably believed and said more stupid things than any other novelist in history.
  • As for [Susan Sotag's] In America, I respected myself so much for finishing it that I felt I deserved a prize myself.
  • I say [it was the fashion designer] ‘Galliano’ [I saw] but I only learned that it was him after I turned to my chaperone and asked if he was Christian Dior. No, it is not, she replied. The reason for this, apparently, is that Dior has been dead for about a hundred years.
  • People speak of Mick Jagger’s extraordinary longevity and wealth but that is only half the story. The other, more interesting, half is how, despite this wealth, he has managed to dress so badly for so long.
  • I had heard that a well-known fashion writer had got all bent out of shape because she had not been given a seat in the front row. I felt so sorry for her: how sad to invest even a fraction of your self-esteem in something so trivial, especially since the view from the second row was perfect.
  • Movie-score strings evoked a Hollywood epic whose entire budget had been blown on costumes.
  • That’s another thing that always amazes about the Olympics: how interesting it is to watch sports in which one has no interest and which one has never even considered playing. I draw the line at basketball
  • The [Olympic weight-lifters'] breakfasts alone – twenty eggs, a dozen steaks – would have been enough to kill me but, as a spectacle, it was utterly addictive, watching the bar bend under the weight, wondering if someone might actually burst before your eyes.
  • The showjumping would be more fun if the participants dressed like cowboys and jumped over bits of abandoned wagon trains.
  • For fans of women’s weightlifting the highlight of the Games in this respect was probably the opportunity to see Nataliya Skakun’s amazing snatch.
  • My dad was dead against pets. He hated dogs because they yapped. He hated cats because they were cats.
  • Perhaps the lack of pets and siblings is part of the reason why I have never wanted to have children. Actually, that puts it too mildly. It’s not just that I have never wanted to have children; I have always actively hated the idea. Frankly, I can’t understand why anyone wants to have them.
  • When I was trying to decide which A-levels to do my father said not to bother with History because it was all in the past. He also gave me another piece of advice that I have come particularly to cherish: ‘Never put anything in writing.’
  • During one such argument – I forget what it was about – my father and I became involved in a scuffle. My mum tried to intercede and, in the process, my father accidentally elbowed her in the nose. ‘That’s me nose gone!’ she said, a remark so idiotic that I became incandescent with rage.
  • Some books, obviously, are a waste of one’s eyes. To feel this about airport blockbusters is perfectly normal, but I feel it is beneath me to read Jeanette Winterson, for example, or Hanif Kureishi. In fact most so-called quality fiction that is story-driven seems a waste of time (time which, by the way, I have in abundance).
  • If I’d known what I needed to know before writing the book I would have had no interest in doing so. Instead of being a journey of discovery writing the book would have been a tedious clerical task, a transcription of the known.

Very good.

Note: I will receive a small referral fee if you buy this book via one of the above links.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.

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