Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews” as Want to Read:
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  466 ratings  ·  50 reviews
*Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism*
*A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice*
*A New York Times Top 10 Nonfiction Book of the Year, as selected by Dwight Garner*

Geoff Dyer has earned the devotion of passionate fans on both sides of the Atlantic through his wildly inventive, romantic novels as well as several brilliant, uncategorizable works o
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Graywolf Press
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Otherwise Known as the Human Condition, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Otherwise Known as the Human Condition

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,080)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
M. Sarki

"If university had taught me anything it was that the world owed me a living"__Geoff Dyer from his essay, On the Roof

I worked from front to back as I am in the habit of doing when reading a book cover to cover. Sure, I skipped around and read a couple essays I noticed that were hiding on me, sort of, further back in the book just because there was no way I could wait that long to get to them and it was also a way for me to test this fellow Dyer's mettle an
If you're not already a fan of Geoff Dyer, as I most certainly am, then I would look at the categories in the contents to see what might strike your fancy. "Visuals" are essays about photographers for the most part as well as a painter and sculptor or two. Most contain an image or two which lets you see what Dyer's describing, pondering, and deconstructing. I read these and feel we have love for a number of photographers in common.

"Verbals" are reviews of books and authors. It was a bit dry for
Mark Field
Ok... this got very close to a five star rating. So why not...? I got the last section of the book - the "autobiographical" essays, and they let the book down... well, really, that are a tad self indulgent, Mr Dyer! Not that I can't relate to the excesses of the 1980's, I was there and I lived to tell the tale too. Aside from that I do like, actually love Dyer's writing, and this collection is wonderful. He is at his best when talking about photography and jazz, his insights are incisive, clear ...more
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, this collection of essays, book reviews, music reviews, and personal writings highlights Dyer’s humor, kindness, breadth of knowledge, and paradoxically, a baby boomer sense of slackerness. His reviews make for making lists; of next books to read (Rebecca West, Sebald, Cheever’s Journal), music to seek out (ECM Records, Don Cherry, Keith Jarrett), photographs to view and take (Capa, Avedon, Soth, Gedney, Brixton 1984), places to travel (Belgrade, ...more
Zara Raab
Geoff Dyer shares with John McFee a talent for spinning compelling prose about almost anything: Muhammad Ali, Miles Davis, the Olympic Games on TV, haut couture, or the arts, whether visual or what he calls “verbals.” All are refracted through a highly literate, unconventional, and discursive instrument: Dyer’s own mind. It comes as no surprise, in the essay “My Life as a Gate-Crasher,” that Dyer decries specialism as boring and timid. Over the decades, Dyer has turned his bold, unruly gaze on p ...more
So you may notice that I gave 4 stars to a book I also placed on my "didn't finish" shelf. Well, here's the reason for that: It's a book of essays and literary criticism and autobiographical ponderings that probably appeared in publications like The New Yorker.

Therefore, it's not really meant to be read straight through, it's more the sort of book you keep on the shelf to peruse occasionally when feeling cultured (or wanting to) or on your bedside table for months at a time as a way to read your
A mix of essays on photography, literature and his personal life, with many great moments. Reading it was almost like reading a memoir, you come away from it feeling like you understand a bit what makes Geoff Dyer tick, what his life experiences have been, and what he's obsessed with (WWII aviation, Doughnut Plant donuts, Burning Man, sex, etc).

But it might be best read intermittently rather than all at once. Some essays were definitely skippable, other bear re-reading.

Hoping he writes another n
Gerhard Schoeman
Geoff Dyer's But Beautiful is an exquisite book on jazz and his The Ongoing Moment is a lucid, flowing consideration of photography. But as a 'man of letters', a critic, he isn't in the same league as Walter Benjamin - who he quotes. Dyer is succinct about jazz artists Nils Petter Molvaer and the Necks, and he can coin a good phrase (though his phrases can border on glib rearrangements of words) - but he is never a profound thinker. Of course, he doesn't claim to be. He's too laid back.
It's been a while since I've read a great collection of disparate essays by a single author. Given the broad range of topics that are usually contained in these kinds of books, I've found that, to really enjoy a book like this, I need to love the author and his or her predilections. Hence, DFW's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is one of my favorite books of all time, and Neal Stephenson's Some Remarks made me say, "Eh."

I've read one of Dyer's novels ( Jeff in Venice, Death in Varn
Jonathan Hiskes
Dyer has extraordinary range, writing personal essays funny and somber along with highly learned book reviews and art and photographic criticism. His close studies of single photographs make me want to try the same. I can't think of another writer of whom I've read five books in a year. Maybe Vonnegut when I was 17. Dyer's books are so diverse they don't feel repetitive.
Neil Griffin
Such an amazing book of reviews, essays, and oddisms. He's the best kind of critic: one who doesn't spend all his energy figuring out why something is terrible, but instead focuses on why a photograph or jazz song or doughnut really speaks to him. I find these comparable to DFW's work and would definitely recommend all of these essays.
Courtney Lindwall
Geoff Dyer is the guy, I imagine, who has an easy time at almost any kind of party. Book launch? He can discuss DeLillo and D. H. Lawrence with the best of them. A jazz concert? Oh yeah, he's dabbled in writing some jazz history. Photography gallery opening? He won the Infinity Award for photography writing.

And if you just want to head to a back room and do a few lines? Well, he'd probably make some friends at that party, too.

This book is a collection of various critical and personal essays spa
Geoff Dyer writes essays about the variety of things he is interested in. Topics include photography, music, and literature and through his essays you get a sense of his personality - which is often maddening! Despite his modest upbringing, Dyer is a pretentious only-child-turned-man living a charmed life. One chapter will be about how he lived off the dole for years and thinks working is bullshit or another about his many girlfriends, BUT then he follows it up with another essay where he at lea ...more
From the beginning essays on photographers to the wide ranging collection of pieces I really loved this collection. It was all a lot more personal than I expected. I found many real jewels buried in here.
Geoff Dyer may be one of the best cultural critics of our time, but in this collection I also learned that he is a douche.
Oct 09, 2015 Jatan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: art
Few comments:

1. Dyer's funny, erudite, whimsical and his humor through antithesis is unique (at least in the context of his subjects). He's fond of repeating, self-effacingly, that he thinks of a career in literature as "a way of not having a career."

2. I skipped the section titled 'Verbals' that includes his essays on other writers, primarily because a few of them were very American for my taste, think Delillo, Cheever, hadn't come across the work of a few others so I didn't really bother--alt
If you're looking to bone up on the kind of stuff that might come in handy at an academic faculty cocktail party or museum curators social, this might be a good start. Otherwise, the title is the best thing about this book. I was seduced by the title and the back cover, which described him as, "writing some of the wittiest, most incisive criticism...on an astonishing array of subjects that... becomes a kind of irresistible self-reportage". I was expecting... something that was not a self-profess ...more
Diane Prokop
Whether he is talking about the perils of being an only child, the merits of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, or the photographs of Richard Avedon, author Geoff Dyer is always knowledgeable, articulate, and witty. He is curious about everything and everyone around him and has devoted his life to observing the people and culture of our time. The writing in his new book, //Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews// spans two decades and leaves no topic untouche ...more
Greg Brown
Geoff Dyer is a hard man to pin down. He (deliberately) spans pretty much every subject in his writing, and they're represented in this book as several different clusters: essays on photography, literature, music, history, and memoir. Sometimes this works against the reader; I went through the first 125 pages before I reached the first subject I was already familiar with, and had some grounds on which to understand Dyer's approach.

His writing is inescapably subjective and concerned with aestheti
I tried really hard to like this book. But I just could not connect with the sports, war, or jazz sections. YMMV. The last section, with an introspective look into writing and readers, was very informative and my favorite part of the book.
Virginia Bryant
This is nice wide range of stuff. Not usually that interested in sculpture and photography, however a good writer makes a variety of subjects more interesting than they would be otherwise.
I'm a big fan of Geoff Dyer's work and this collection has some indispensable essays I will go back to. Dyer is lucid and provocative as a critic—especially when he talks about photography; less so, though, on other topics. His thoughts on literature were not as engaging, and I often found myself skimming through many of these pieces. But it's ridiculous to expect a large collection of disparate writings to both cohere and be of consistently great quality. There are plenty of gems to discover he ...more
I've always been a fan of Geoff Dyer. I began following him when icam across him in a British Council Library in Wroclaw, poland. His essays resonate with me as we share a love of travel, have similar musical tastes and interests. I am not versed in photogrpahy, so the essays on photography , while interesint, was new to me. The section on music and his life were much more interesting; I enjoyed essays on slacking, listenign to jazz and rave musci especially.

Looking forward ot more fiction from
It's not how I think, but it makes sense of how I think.
Alyson Hagy
I found these short essays on art, literature, and culture smart and refreshing. They are also frequently funny. I was most thrilled by Dyer's devotion to criticism as an art of its own. We need more writers who are willing to stake out aesthetic opinions. The blogosphere is wonderful for enthusiasm, but it's less useful (at least to me) as a source of deep, careful thinking about art--why it's important, why it succeeds or fails, etc. Dyer is an old-fashioned critic in the best sense of the ter ...more
Classically great essays.
Caroline Friedman Levy
In tribute to Geoff Dyer's meandering, idiosyncratic approach to criticism and, apparently, everything else, I feel only a tiny compunction rating and reviewing this book though I read just one of five sections. I could read twenty more books made up of the "Personals" memoir-essays, his crabby and sporadically-ecstatic voice bores into my brain and leaves me lonely when it's gone. But I'd need my eyelids held open to get through the "Visuals", "Verbals", "Musicals" or "Variables" sections. Stil ...more
So I'm not actually "done" with this book, but it's a book of essays so I'm just going to bounce around anyway and probably won't read it all, so I moved it here. I've read five or six so far, and all are excellent as usual. It's looks like there are a few in here from his earlier compilation "Anglo-English Attitudes," but many, many more new ones, especially some selected pieces that I've read before, or in earlier forms, that are great. I'm really excited to sink my teeth into the rest of the ...more
Rahul  Adusumilli
Geoff Dyer chose to be a writer as a way of not having a career, Geoff Dyer holds being a single child as a major factor on his personality, Geoff Dyer hopped countries while living on the dole. Geoff Dyer divided his collection of essays into different categories: Visuals, Verbals, Musicals, Variables, Personals. I chose to skip much of 'Verbals' and 'Musicals', read parts of 'Variables', and enjoyed reading the whole of 'Visuals' and 'Personals'. Best part has to be the 'Introduction' though.
Patti K
This recent collection of Dyer's essays is a compilation of the first two books
of essays published in Great Britain. They encompass about twenty years of writings.
The topics are diverse and cleverly observed. Photography, books, authors, musicals,
a fashion show, the 2004 Olympics, and getting married. I found some new authors that
I want to read and enjoyed the company of him through various subjects. I liked it alot.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 69 70 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts
  • Art and Ardor
  • The Best American Essays 2004
  • Sex and the River Styx
  • Yours Ever: People and Their Letters
  • The Information Design Handbook
  • Shade, the Changing Man, Vol. 2: Edge of Vision
  • Against Joie de Vivre: Personal Essays
  • Karaoke Culture
  • Slavoj Žižek
  • The Book of Leviathan
  • Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man
  • Loitering: New & Collected Essays
  • Ex Machina: The Deluxe Edition, Vol. 5
  • The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.
  • No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays
  • Photography Q&A: Real Questions. Real Answers.
  • Letters
Geoff Dyer was born in Cheltenham, England, in 1958. He was educated at the local Grammar School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He is the author of four novels: Paris Trance, The Search, The Colour of Memory, and, most recently, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi; a critical study of John Berger, Ways of Telling; five genre-defying titles: But Beautiful (winner of a 1992 Somerset Maugham Prize ...more
More about Geoff Dyer...

Share This Book