Tomorrow, Feb. 14, Guernica will publish an interview with genre-defying British writer Geoff Dyer, who has written everything from novels and travel essays to non-fiction novels on the First World War and jazz. Dyer has received the Somerset Maugham award, the Lannan Literary Fellowship, and, in 2009, was named the GQ Writer of the Year.
In our feature, interviewer ASH Smyth talks to Dyer about the distinction between “films,” “movies,” and “cinema” (Dyer doesn’ t believe in these categorizations, and only differentiates between film and television), fiction versus non-fiction, the importance of snubbing ‘reverence’ in favor of talking about passions lightly, and his new book—Zona—a scene-by-scene critique of Andrei Tarkovsky’ s 1979 sci fi thriller Stalker. Stalker, widely considered a “difficult” Russian classic, is about the unnamed titular “stalker” who leads people to the Zone, where their deepest desires may be granted.
Zona, Dyer explains, was originally conceived as an 800-word column for the Guardian, but quickly morphed into a book the Independent called “suffused with humor and a delight to read.”
Here, in selected outtakes from the interview, Dyer talks about HBO, his failure to write a tennis book, and why he’ s not on Twitter.
On tennis and Twitter:
Geoff Dyer:The tennis book, and everything I’ve said about my failure to write the tennis book and doing this instead, is absolutely true. It just really got me down. And now the tennis book is… ahm… I don’t think it is going to happen. There was a moment when I could’ve done that and that’ s passed, for all sorts of rather sad reasons. I’m making yet another come-back—at 53! I’ve had this terrible, frustrating wrist injury, and started playing again the other day, for the first time in ages. And the guy I was playing, his wife is one of these people who follows Twitter, and somebody had tweeted ‘Geoff Dyer’s on the court next to me. He’ s got a decent forehand, but a pretty crappy backhand.’ And I promise you I’m not one of these people; but I really wanted to explain, I felt like saying, ‘Oh, but I haven’t played for six months! If only you’d seen me back when…’
Guernica: But you’ re not on Twitter…That’ s how they get you in the end. “You bastard…”: I have to reply!
Geoff Dyer: Well, exactly. My wife, that night, she said something like “Have you seen these Joey Barton tweets?” and I said “Of course not!” You’ ve got to be really careful, or you’ ll be sucked into this moronic whirlpool [it is not clear if he said that to his wife, or is saying it to me]. But yeah, I can see how so much of modern life requires an amazing amount of resistance, doesn’t it? Anyway, so the tennis book is not going to happen.
Geoff Dyer: Oh, well, you see, my wife grew up in a sort of upper-middle-class home with no telly, so they’ d spend all their time learning the piano and the violin, and reading Proust or whatever, so for her, still, watching telly has this positively erotic, transgressive atmosphere: y’know, it’ s something her dad wouldn’ t let her do. Whereas I grew up in a house where the telly was always on. But I think it’ s crazy now, we can see that distinction between telly and film breaking down—all that great HBO stuff. There are some great things on telly now. I mean, I watch almost no TV drama, because—apart from those HBO things which are properly filmed—they just don’t seem very good. And then drama docs and all that, really there are so few examples of that being good. Though goodness knows there are examples: so we come back to the Putin and South Africa shows.
Look for the full interview tomorrow evening.