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the Complete Review
the complete review - essays/reviews

     

Anglo-English Attitudes

by
Geoff Dyer


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Anglo-English Attitudes



Title: Anglo-English Attitudes
Author: Geoff Dyer
Genre: Essays/Reviews
Written: 1984-99
Length: 361 pages
Availability: Anglo-English Attitudes - UK
Anglo-English Attitudes - Canada
Anglo-English Attitudes - India
  • Essays, Reviews, Misadventures 1984-99

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Our Assessment:

B : fairly interesting and varied miscellany

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 13/11/1999 John Berger
Time Out A 8/12/1999 Omer Ali

  From the Reviews:
  • "He has many insights." - John Berger, The Guardian

  • "There's something about the familiarity of Dyer's style - and the breadth of his intelligence - which absorbs, impresses and simply entertains." - Omer Ali, Time Out

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Anglo-English Attitudes is a collection of some 50-odd essays and reviews, written between 1984 and 1999. In his introduction Dyer professes great pride in these little pieces.

If we're being utterly frank, there were times when it was only the prospect of one day being able to publish my journalism that kept me writing 'proper' books: do a few more novels, I reasoned, and maybe my obscurity will be sufficiently lessened to permit publication of the book I really care about, a collection of my bits and pieces.
       Say what ? Dyer has always had something of a subversive streak, an enthusiast who is unable to gauge importance, relevance, or interest. Now, this is a nice little (correction: nice big) collection of incidental writing, much of it insightful, fairly clever, well-expressed. But they are incidental pieces, journalistic pieces -- and the weight of the book is much less than its heft would suggest.
       Dyer professes to be a fan of such collections (while he "virtually never" reads the review pages in newspapers or magazines, where the pieces are generally first to be found). Fair enough -- they have their value, as does this collection. What's odd is what has been omitted: "a thousand words is the minimum condition of entry to this volume" he explains, without explaining further. It means that book reviews (of the likes of Bernhard's Extinction and Kapuscinski's The Soccer War) are tantalizingly mentioned but excluded. As is, bizarrely, the piece from which the volume's title is taken. So we can't really be sure this is, in fact, the book he really cares about.
       What there is is fairly interesting. It is a varied lot, divided up, approximately, thematically. There are eleven essays on photographers, five on musicians, about as many on painters, a few of the "misadventures" of the subtitle, and quite a few book reviews. Dyer has many interests, and he writes about almost all of them well.
       Nevertheless, the collection is both a bit much and a bit little. Dyer doesn't repeat himself and offers new riffs on new subjects. He has interesting things to say about most of his subjects (and says them well). Still, the question of: to what end ? hangs about them all.
       The pieces are worth reading. Dyer writes well and thoughtfully. Most of the pieces, though over the thousand word minimum, are still very short analyses. Only one critical piece -- on photographer William Gedney -- is over twenty pages (just), only two others -- on Robert Capa and Albert Camus -- over ten (just). Dyer has clever things to say in his brief reviews and essays, but they are sketches.
       The photography pieces, especially, are very strong. In terms of expression the pieces on music are particularly impressive. The book reviews are a neatly varied lot (from Althusser's The Future lasts a long Time to Cormac McCarthy to Jay McInerney's The Last of the Savages to Milan Kundera). Dyer shows what he can do (and that he is an attentive, interested reader), but the selection is a sliver -- and there are a number of eminently forgettable, if not already forgotten books among them (McInerney's among them).
       There's always something in the pieces. Of Jayne Anne Phillips Dyer writes:
Even as you admire stuff like this, it seems to me, part of you is thinking what a pain in the neck it is, this strain of writing that is so saturated in its own effects.
       Dyer convincingly sums up some of the artists he writes about -- his discussion of Nan Goldin's work is all that needs be said about it. In a more positive light, his excellent piece on William Gedney is also a complete portrait.
       There are other pieces in the collection as well: reminiscences about model planes, soldier sets, and comics, a set piece on "Unpacking my Library," a birthday (his thirty-eighth) spent with Def Leppard in Seoul, a puff piece about getting ready to fly in a MiG, and his failed attempts at parachuting. The misadventures are amusing, though this type of stuff also worked better in his Out of Sheer Rage (and his novels). The MiG piece -- "The Wrong Stuff" -- is genuinely funny, but it is also a glossy magazine piece (unsurprisingly, it was first published in Esquire), and Dyer (awed by the undertaking ?) brings nothing new to the table. The Def Leppard piece lives off the absurd circumstances without going very far (and is lamely finished off).

       There is enough to please and entertain here, and quite a few of the pieces are memorable. The sum is less than the parts -- Dyer's strength has always been in the parts -- but it is a book to leaf through and enjoy. Lightly recommended.

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Links:

Reviews: Geoff Dyer: Other books by Geoff Dyer under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Geoff Dyer was born in 1958. He attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He has written several novels, a study of John Berger, and several books that his publishers describe as "genre-defying".

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