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J.A.A. Purves

Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room (2012)

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I was frequently delighted while reading Zona, put off just once or twice, and now would like to read more of Dyer's work.

And so I have been. First was The Missing of the Somme. I had no idea what that book was about for, literally, 40 pages, I think, but it was an easy, enjoyable read (odd, given its subject) that was over before I knew it.


I'm now on to Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It


Although I thought I was finished with Dyer after 2014, I was reminded that I'd never given But Beautiful a try. That's changing, I read the intro last night but have yet to really launch into it. From Dyer's site:


“May be the best book ever written about jazz.” David Thomson, Los Angeles Times


“Achingly gorgeous… evokes the lives of working musicians so that you taste the whiskey, smell the stubbed cigarettes, hear the gentle clicking of the valves, the coughs, and shuffling feet between studio takes.” Jonathan Lethem


“Drawing on how he hears the music of the people like Mingus, Monk, Bud Powell, Art Pepper, and on key photos of them, Dyer has constructed eight variations like highly concentrated novels, 80 per cent proof swigs of fiction. The result, I think, is brilliant… His attempts to recreate the drug-fogged, music-drenched, reality-melting, racism-crazed insides of the minds of people like Powell, Mingus, Webster and Chet Baker are unnervingly effective.” Miles Kington, Independent on Sunday


“The only book about jazz that I recommend to my friends. It is a little gem.” Keith Jarrett


“Beautiful… An ingenious and brilliantly written book. Even readers not fascinated by jazz above other kinds of music are likely to find Mr Dyer too good a literary craftsman to put the book down… About as intricate a mixture of biographical essay and make-believe as is likely to be written.” New York Times


But Beautiful is just that, a moving and highly original tribute to Black American music.” Bryan Ferry


“A gorgeous and lyrical collection of nocturnal jazz reveries.” The New Yorker


“Music from the inside out… His prose takes on so much momentum that you utterly forget to wonder if what you’re reading about happened… Dyer can get to places few writers on music know exist.” Greil Marcus, Interview


“Swings Geoff Dyer straight into the front line of writers . . . whose books are imbued with the spirit and techniques of jazz . . . voices deep love and understanding of the musicians evoked with appropriate poetic image and sound effects.” Michael Horovitz, The Times


“Dyer emerges at once as a considerable jazz scholar; hardly less impressive is the supple prose which fleshes out known facts and myths and brings his subjects vibrantly alive… This is a book I shall return to again and again.” Jazz Journal International


“Dyer turns jazz in to poetry and his subjects into a beautiful sad music… Few will be unmoved by his passion and eloquence.” Washington Post

Edited by Christian

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I've knocked out But Beautiful. At GoodReads, I posted this review;


5 Stars


Another five-star rating from me? I'll get a reputation for overpraising the books I read.

But really, what can I do - give this book 4 out of 5 stars? That just won't do. 

This book is special. If you know something about the musicians profiled, you'll appreciate the way Dyer captures the spirit of their music and paints a vivid picture of each man's life. And you'll likely be slightly disappointed when, at the Afterword, Dyer shifts into straight-essay mode. He delivers a fine piece on jazz history, but it misses the imagination and beauty of the individual artist profiles.

This soars to #2 on my list of favorite Dyers. Highly rewarding.

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On 4/6/2012 at 9:29 AM, Christian said:

My favorite passage from early in the book is this:


"The person doing the talking, having the overheard thoughts, is another man, with a woman in a cute little fur cape. Uh-oh! The talker is still going on about how insufferably boring everything is. She asks him about the Bermuda Triangle. He goes on some more about how boring everything is, reckons that maybe even the Zone is boring, that it might have been more interesting to have lived in the Middle Ages. What does he mean by this? Is he saying, effectively, that he’d rather have been in Andrei Rublev than Stalker? Which wouldn’t make sense, because he’s Tarkovsky’s favourite actor, Anatoli Solonitsyn — and thirteen years earlier he was Andrei Rublev!"


I don’t know why that makes me smile so broadly, but it does.


This could also be a sly wink and nod to HARD TO BE A GOD, one of ROADSIDE PICNIC author's the Strugatskiy brothers other famous works.

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