Geoff Dyer, 63, grew up in Cheltenham and lives in Los Angeles.His 19 books include Jeff in VeniceDeath of Varanasiwhich won the Bollinger Common Man Woodhouse Award for Graphic Novel, and Zona: A Book About the Movies of the Journey to one roomabout Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film stalker. use New Yorker, dale “loves to make unique books, like keys”; for Simon Armitage, “he’s a smart clog, but he’s also one of us”. his new book, Roger Federer’s last daysreflecting the nature of the ending, with references to artists such as Bob Dylan, DH Lawrence and JMW Turner.
What made you (eventually) write about Roger Federer?
He looks amazing, which is very satisfying when the most aesthetically pleasing way to exercise is also the most effective. Those of us who love Roger just love him even more at the twilight of his career as he becomes the key man, a graceful underdog. He looks good; if we meet, I believe we can be good friends. I had my agent give his agent a call to get an endorsement, but Roger’s starts at about a million dollars. Since he’s such a busy guy, I even suggested a pitch – something like “I think there might be more about me in there”.
This is not the tennis book you ever set out to write…
No, I feel like I can only use this title if the cover makes it clear that it’s not a tennis book. I’m writing about the ending, just as the world itself is about to end, handy. Before the pandemic, I was living a youthful life—traveling a lot, and having fun—and then all of a sudden I was caught in a glimpse of old age.Writing this book got me through [that period]. What is offered here is diving into one’s consciousness – mine – with no introductions and no chapters, so you have to start thinking, what happened? The task of building it really caught my attention: it occurred to me that I could make the book exactly 86,400 words, one word per second for the day, which turned into a real hassle during the proof phase.
Do you ever feel like you’re smuggling these typical free-range reflections in the name of a book about Federer?
I think in the last 10 years or so, this kind of writing has been legalized, just like marijuana.when i do it for the first time [in the 90s], these weird books of mine got kicked around in bookstores, getting more and more dog-eared as they moved from section to section. Now this unclassifiable cross-genre hybrid has become a category of its own. Stay away from smuggling, I showed up at customs and said, right here!
A footnote talks about the danger of sounding “a little clunky,” which your job often seems to want to avoid. Why?
That particular thing about the ‘ponce-meter’ comes when I talk about listening to Beethoven’s late quartets in Tuscany – I can feel the roar rising – but it’s not the same as what I’m talking about at the top. hostility related. [My style] It’s all about that English tone that alternates between joking and serious.I have a word to say [the Hitler biographer] Ian Kershaw go to hell and come back It’s Andy Kershaw’s. I like to make readers think, “Oh, he’s an idiot!” as long as they think about it; the footnote after 150 pages makes it clear that I’m joking. But it had to go: The book was published in America, where no one had heard of Andy Kershaw.
this is yours eighth book Since you last published a novel. Have you given up writing novels?
almost. I’ve written all of these books on very broad topics, but my novel can be summed up in a few sentences: Guys go to parties, meet girls with a group of friends, and fall in love. This is what I have.What I like to do next is the English version of Annie Ernaux these yearsto document some aspects of my very ordinary childhood in the 1960s in the working-class semi-rural world that formed me but seems to have disappeared.
This book touches on the role of education in your life…
I am aware of the arguments against the grammar school system that its real purpose is to ensure that enough people fail 11+ to remain fluent [of workers into] factory. But for me, the post-war solution means that I can take the educational escalator without any conscious effort and greatly expand your life chances. I happened to be in London during the last election. A Conservative Party came to canvass and I told them everything I owed Labour. Even though Labour at the time was Corbyn’s hopeless Labour party, I still couldn’t vote for anyone else.
What have you read recently?
Tessa Hadley free love awesome. I always joke with her that the best description of a penis is found outside of Alan Hollinghurst’s work, when the protagonist’s lover is getting dressed and she sees it “lively and smooth”.
what a prank feels like JM Coetzee? [At a books festival in 2010, Dyer joked that it was an honour to be introduced by a Booker-winning South African Nobel laureate… “because Nadine Gordimer is my favourite writer”.]
Going viral isn’t as easy as people think, this is my latest.In the footage he looks stiff; I’m worried I’ll annoy him, but I’m happier for the Australian audience [at a books festival in 2010] like it very much. The next time I met him in Japan and Cartagena, he couldn’t have been more friendly. I don’t think he’s a big laugher. It’s a classic gimmick. 10 or 15 minutes before we go on stage, it hits me, and I quickly ask myself, do I take the risk? Whenever I get into something like this when I’m writing, I’m thinking, oh god, will I be in trouble if I write this? The consideration of that moment is always with a push, yes, to do it.