Otherwise Known as the Human Condition

Title:
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition
Selected Essays and Reviews
Geoff Dyer
Price$18.00
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Winner of the 2011 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

About the Book

“An irresistibly funny storyteller, [Dyer] is adept at fiction, essay, and reportage, but happiest when twisting all three into something entirely his own.”—The New Yorker
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 of nonfiction. All the while he has been writing some of the wittiest, most incisive criticism we have on an astonishing array of subjects—music, literature, photography, and travel journalism—that, in Dyer’s expert hands, becomes a kind of irresistible self-reportage.

Otherwise Known as the Human Condition collects twenty-five years of essays, reviews, and misadventures. Here he is pursuing the shadow of Camus in Algeria and remembering life on the dole in Brixton in the 1980s; reflecting on Richard Avedon and Ruth Orkin, on the status of jazz and the wonderous Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, on the sculptor Zadkine and the saxophonist David Murray (in the same essay), on his heroes Rebecca West and Ryszard Kapus´cin´ski, on haute couture and sex in hotels. Whatever he writes about, his responses never fail to surprise. For Dyer there is no division between the reflective work of the critic and the novelist’s commitment to lived experience: they are mutually illuminating ways to sharpen our perceptions. His is the rare body of work that manages to both frame our world and enlarge it.

Additional Reviews

“Mr. Dyer’s new book, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition, is a collection of his occasional prose. . . . They’re ‘bits and bobs,’ he writes, but he takes them more seriously than that, and so should anyone who cares about joyous, wriggling sentences composed in the English language.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“There’s a restless current to these essays, as if a net were being thrown ever wider in search of fresh versions of that original burst of aesthetic delight, literature, which managed to turn a working-class grammar school boy from Cheltenham into an international ‘man of letters.’ . . . This is what I find most remarkable about Dyer: his tone. Its simplicity, its classlessness, its accessibility and yet its erudition—the combination is a trick few British writers ever pull off. . . . [Dyer’s humor is] what separates him from Berger and Lawrence and Sontag: it’s what makes these essays not just an education, but a joy.”—Zadie Smith, Harper’s Magazine

“You read Dyer for his caustic wit, of course, his exquisite and perceptive crankiness, and his deep and exciting intellectual connections, but from these enthralling rants and cultural investigations there finally emerges another Dyer, a generous seeker of human feeling and experience, a man perhaps closer than he thinks to what he believes his hero Camus achieved: ‘a heart free of bitterness.’”—Sam Lipsyte, Very Short List

“Dyer’s writing does what the best critical writing always does, encouraging us to view, read, or listen closely to art, literature, and music as well as to pay close attention to various cultural forms and their impact on our personal lives.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“All of Dyer’s work holds together very well indeed, but what holds it together is a voice, which becomes a persona. It’s a very English, low-key, plainspoken, unassuming voice that invites you in, and can become intimate but not too intimate, and can smoothly transit between comedy and gravity. It takes on flesh in his reported pieces and personal essays and some of his fiction, and there it is often richly and sometimes darkly comic—self deprecating, stubborn, canny, forlorn, worldly, hapless, serious, romantic, dissipated.”—Luc Sante, Bookforum

"If you've never read Dyer who has been described as 'a true original' and 'possibly the best living writer in Britain' this is the place to start. . . . Otherwise Known as the Human Condition is a pitch perfect close encounter with Dyer's critical eye and ideas. . . . Geoff Dyer's work is a necessary addition to all our (reading) lives."—Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle

"Casually erudite and yet liable to fascinate anyone wandering in the door, witty and breathing and full of truth."—Flavorwire, "The 25 Greatest Essay Collections of All Time"

"[A] brilliant, diverse collection of essays on topics ranging from Def Leppard on tour to Albert Camus."—Entertainment Weekly, "The Must List"