Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

One of the clear signs you are a book addict is that even though you have more books than you can possibly read you are constantly on the lookout for more.  Related to this is the attempt by book addicts to acquire as much information about books as is possible.  I am guilty of both.

And the steady stream of email feeds this problem.  Whether it’s emails from authors, publishers, publicists, magazines or just friends with recommendations it is like drinking from the proverbial fire hose.

All of this does prove useful, however, when you find books you love and/or might not have heard about otherwise.  One book I have come across lately, and am tempted to move up the TBR pile, is Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer.

In case you haven’tt heard about it, although it seems to be one of those books with buzz, I thought I would share snippets from a couple of reviews that came to my inbox.

Hunter Jackson reviews it for Boldtype:

On the surface, this is a slight departure from the youthful romanticism of Dyer’s previous fiction. The travel and parties are still enjoyable, although this time, they’re competing with a nagging angst that rarely goes away. But at second glance, the old Dyer is still there, still waging a war against the tedium of modern life — he’s simply older, calmer, and less naïve. The two writers in Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi are ultimately caricatures of two clichéd approaches to finding happiness, and the book ends so absurdly that it’s clear Dyer still finds humor in the drama of existence.

Flavorpill‘s Chelsea Bauch also discussed the novel:

Wide-ranging British writer Geoff Dyer’s bizarre new novel, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, is really two stories in one — or is that one story in two?

Dyer reworks Thomas Mann. Structured as a diptych, the book begins with a reinterpretation of Mann’s famous novella, Death in Venice, set amid a decadent Venice Biennale. In the second half, however, the story journeys to Varanasi, where an unnamed narrator — who may or may not be the same as the first — ponders the philosophy of existence.

The stories raise Q’s without A’s. Dyer is deliberately vague about the twin stories’ relationship to one another, but the book’s thematic lifelines — love, water, death, art — make it more about asking provocative questions than laying them to rest.

He‘s an experimental expert. Having written the award-winning jazz novel-cum-mosaic But Beautiful, Dyer is well equipped to tackle an unconventional concept. At its core, Jeff in Venice is a story about the pursuit of love, but also a deft cultural portrait painted in passing.

I am behind in my reading and reviews but this seems like a very interesting book.

Oh well, I will put it in the “maybe read when I have a chance” list.  If anyone has read it I would love to hear your thoughts.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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