Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Geoff Dyer’s novel Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is simultaneously more complicated and more playful that it first seems. The first half of the novel narrates in the third person a story about an Englishman named Jeff Atman. Like the author (whose name, Geoff, is a homophone for that of his protagonist), Jeff Atman is a freelance journalist and critic for prestigious British magazines. Jeff is hired to attend the famous Biennale art festival in Venice and conduct an interview with the former love of a famous artist. The second half of the novel is narrated in the first person. The unnamed narrator is presumably still Jeff Atman (there are many similarities and indicators that the two are the same character, but the fact is never entirely confirmed). He has now been sent to Varanasi, a city on the Ganges River in India where Hindus bathe in the river in part to cleanse their body of karmic debt and in some cases to escape further reincarnations.
The complexities and playfulness of the novel are in many ways prefigured by Dyer’s earlier work. For example, his But Beautiful (1991) tells the purportedly nonfictional life stories of several jazz greats, but the narrative style and approach seem fictive in quality. Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage (1997) is both a book about British novelist D. H. Lawrence and a memoir about Dyer’s failure to write a book about Lawrence. Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Booklist 105, no. 14 (March 15, 2009): 42.
Kirkus Reviews 77, no. 4 (February 15, 2009): 166.
Library Journal 134, no. 3 (February 15, 2009): 93-94.
London Review of Books 31, no. 11 (June 11, 2009): 24-25.
The New York Review of Books 56, no. 12 (July 16, 2009): 24-25.
The New York Times Book Review, April 19, 2009, p. 12.
The New Yorker 85, no. 10 (April 20, 2009): 110-112.
Publishers Weekly 256, no. 2 (January 12, 2009): 3.
San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 2009, p. J-5.
The Spectator 309, no. 9423 (April 4, 2009): 32.
The Times Literary Supplement, March 27, 2009, p. 19.
(The entire section is 62 words.)