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James Barszcz

Maplewood, New Jersey United States | Member Since 2012

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  • Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Geoff Dyer
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (31)
    Performance
    (21)
    Story
    (20)

    Every two years the international art world descends on Venice for the opening of the Biennale. Among them is Jeff Atman, a jaded and dissolute journalist, whose dedication to the cause of Bellini-fuelled party-going is only intermittently disturbed by the obligation to file a story.

    Frank says: "Hate Jeff in Venice, Love Death in Varanasi"
    "Clever writer, suitable narrator, bad audio"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This recording annoyed me. Especially while listening to the first half, I often couldn't make out consonants at the beginning and end of words. It took a lot of attention to fill them in retrospectively, when I understood the sentence, which made it difficult to listen while driving. I was straining to make out the words--was that "whole," "home," "hone"? "Bone," "phone," "moan"? This seemed more perverse given the play on consonants in the title, with its allusion to Mann's "Death in Venice." I can think of a few causes of the muffling. First, Mr. Vance, who is an accomplished narrator of many other books that I've enjoyed, sounds tired, and maybe lacking energy to articulate fully. Maybe it was the equipment that couldn't pick up changes in volume, or had too thick a windscreen fitted to it. Or, most annoyingly, it sometime seemed that the garbling was being done on purpose, as if someone warned Vance not to pop his P's and so he was holding back on sounding any consonants. Whatever. It bugged me.

    That said, the book is smart and funny, like other Dyer books I have read. Dyer has a way of teasing out absurdities in modern cultural events (like the Venice Bienniele (sp?)) and in his own modern take on culture. Part 1 describes a brief romance of British journalist "Jeff" with an American art-gallery operative. In Part 2, Jeff goes to Varanasi, a city on the Ganges where Hindu funeral rites are performed. At heart, Dyer himself is a journalist or memoirist or travel writer, or some combination of all three, not unlike his hero D.H. Lawrence in some of his books, and the plotting of each part seems adventitious and casual. He wants to write about Venice and India more than about characters. I was not pleased by the descriptions of sexual encounters in Part 1, but maybe that's me. I've always wanted to visit India, but after imagining the squalor as described in Part 2 of the story, I'm not so sure.

    I do like Dyer, and I like Vance's work elsewhere. They're neither at their best here.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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