Jay Daze's Reviews > Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer
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's review
Feb 09, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: literature, library-book, longueur
Read from February 09 to 17, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Not a book for those who like plot, for the main character, the titular Jeff, has completely lost the plot of his life. And not for those who like everything neatly laid out for them. Between the two parts, that certainly do add up to make a fully realized novel, there is a large hole - as deep a hole as in Jeff himself. I enjoyed linking the two halves together, seeing the repetitions and echoes from each half. Dyer also loves screwing with the reader: Jeff mentions how he hates magical realism, so of course in the truly odd final section he has a philosophical chat with a talking animal.

The first half is good, I like his needy fling with Laura, and I think the sex was great (that's the problem with sex scenes, so particular to the...ummm...taste of the reader), but the bacchanalia at the Biennale is a set up to show how messed up Jeff is and how he ends up the way he does in Varanasi. (Though Varanasi is much richer, Jeff is sort of taken apart in the second half, there is a longueur while Jeff wanders through Varanasi until a friend reappears.)

Jeff is sent to Venice, he is sent to Varanasi -- he is an incredibly passive creature. "Soon the stars would happen." That is Jeff's universe. In both parts he is searching for something outside of him to save him; he has no agency. The Venice section ends with his secular salvation leaving him. But in India, something far odder happens - he finds or creates some sort of religion based on the extinction of self. I wouldn't confuse this with him finding the religion of India Hinduism or Buddhism, I think that is why Dyer had him create his own deity, Ganoona in the pouch of a kangaroo. I think he just took his own passive pathology and elevated it to a religion outside of himself. But it is a religion of death, whether that is a literal death when he pushes out into the Ganges or an extinction of ego -- I can't say, but it makes me sad for him.
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Reading Progress

02/10/2010 page 5
1.69% "bam, 1st line "in June 2003, when, for a brief moment, it looked as if the invasion of Iraq had not been such a bad idea after all...""
02/10/2010 page 8
2.7% ""Eventually everything that is going on inside will manifest itself externally. The interior will be exteriorized.""
02/10/2010 page 17
5.74% ""Air Meteor: We Couldn't Give a Flying Fuck!" Ah a fiery hunk of rock and ice hurtling through the atmosphere...Air Canada too?"
02/10/2010 page 47
15.88% "Lost in Venice (again): "We rely on signs to make choices for us--or at least to enable us to make choices." But the signs aren't any help."
02/10/2010 page 61
20.61% ""Still it was pretty cool & came closer than anything [people]...wanted from art, a space where you could trip out, lose yourself..."" 1 comment
02/10/2010 page 62
20.95% "no else seen the "rainy Finnish boat in its sea of shattered glass. It was as if Jeff had hallucinated it."" 1 comment
02/12/2010 page 95
32.09% "Hot Sex! An actually good sex scene in some modern lit. Who knew?"
02/12/2010 page 105
35.47% ""Porn that was childbirth; a football that was a skull; commerce that was art: nothing today was quite what it seemed.""
02/16/2010 page 156
52.7% ""...becoming a line of powdered whiteness against the empty blue." w/ coke taken by Jeff this is appropriate ending, as is the emptiness..."
02/16/2010 page 163
55.07% ""not telling you...that your girlfriend's partially clothed body has been discovered floating in the Ganges" sounds like a plot but no..."
02/16/2010 page 173
58.45% "rituals in Varanasi "exhausted pageant""
02/16/2010 page 204
68.92% ""The city was a mandala, a cosmogram. It contained the cosmos." Don't think Jeff has convinced me."
02/16/2010 page 206
69.59% "ah...Darrel again..." 1 comment
02/16/2010 page 221
74.66% "Celebrity=tourist in Varanasi, "I may have despised them, may have done nothing to deserve such attention...""
02/16/2010 page 215
72.64% ""Soon the stars would happen." That is Jeff to the T."
02/16/2010 page 225
76.01% "Jeff pisses into the Ganges, sort of the low point in his love affair with Varanasi, not really love, just nothing better..."
02/16/2010 page 227
76.69% "Wow the ATM rage, insane making India, Dyer backtrack says it would be a "a clean & dull planet" but personally I go insane..."
02/16/2010 page 233
78.72% "...back to I LOVE MY INDIA sign, thus completing (ending) the Varanasi rant, like all relationships with places.."
02/16/2010 page 234
79.05% "Laline on Jeff: "You're one of those men who get skinnier & skinnier.""
02/16/2010 page 240
81.08% ""Perhaps the nearest I'd got to sustainable, all consuming enjoyment was the life I was leading here, doing nothing.""
02/16/2010 page 242
81.76% ""my face, was full of something, trembling like a glass brimful of water...not out of fear, but out of the simple fact of being alive""
02/16/2010 page 246
83.11% ""I had never crossed over to the other side of the Ganges. Then..." journey of dead crossing the river...to crap on other side, "abysmal""
02/16/2010 page 247
83.45% "J's life flashing before eyes "one of these moments, I realized was this one, the one where I realized that my life was...I jolted awake..."" 1 comment
02/17/2010 page 257
86.82% ""Ganoona is all that which is not anything else. But it's also that which is everything else." Appearing from Darell's dream of a kangaroo"
02/17/2010 page 263
88.85% "Book in the whirlpool, to be lost forgotten, or take up and worshiped, a writer's anxiety dream..."
02/17/2010 page 267
90.2% "Holy man's lost umbrella:" 1 comment
02/17/2010 page 269
90.88% "The talking goat too stuck in its head to express goatness...FUCKING MAGIC REALISM - Jeff complained about it earlier, Dyer fucking with us"
02/17/2010 page 271
91.55% ""Et in Arcadia ego." After being handed a human skull." 1 comment
02/17/2010 page 280
94.59% ""I was over. I had taken myself out of the equation." Enlightenment or insanity?"
02/17/2010 page 290
97.97% "Has become 'crustie' welcomed (imagined) into pantheon as Ganoona, 'passing through, staying put' mantra"
02/17/2010 page 291
98.31% "Final words of book: "...leaning forward and letting go, leaning on nothing."" 1 comment

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