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the Complete Review
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Paris Trance

Geoff Dyer

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To purchase Paris Trance

Title: Paris Trance
Author: Geoff Dyer
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998
Length: 274 pages
Availability: Paris Trance - US
Paris Trance - UK
Paris Trance - Canada
Paris Trance - India
Paris Trance - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

A- : A very successful portrait of 20-somethings in Paris

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe B- 23/5/1999 Lucinda Ballantyne
Daily Telegraph B 18/4/1998 Jane Shilling
The Guardian B+ 20/3/1999 Ashley Stokes
The LA Times A 17/6/1999 Jonathan Levi
New Statesman A- 17/4/1998 Candia McWilliam
New York B- 9/8/1999 Walter Kirn
The NY Times B 2/6/1999 Richard Eder
The NY Times Book Rev. B 11/7/1999 Daniel Mendelsohn
The New Yorker A 9/8/1999 .
Salon B+ 12/7/1999 Greg Bottoms
The Spectator B+ 25/4/1998 David Irvine
The Times A- 18/4/1998 Jason Cowley
TLS . 1/5/1998 Tom MacFaul
The Washington Post A 27/6/1999 James Sallis

  Review Consensus:

  Fairly enthusiastic across the board, except that some don't think there is quite enough substance or story to it

  From the Reviews:
  • "(S)oaked in the aching nostalgia that Paris seems to encourage in its expatriate writers, the novel is almost sickeningly readable - it's bitter-sweet edge giving it the air of some rather grown-up kind of soft drink." - Jane Shilling , Daily Telegraph

  • "A book where the shimmer is so bright it hurts." - Ashley Stokes, The Guardian

  • "Beckett might have said it shorter, but hardly better." - Jonathan Levi, The Los Angeles Times

  • "He has always been a writer who could write well about physical love; it's something to do with the literalness of his prose. You don't worry that a metaphor or a euphemism or a spurt of fine writing is going to interpose itself between ourselves and the two lucid privacies he exposes in his descriptions of sex, of which there is a great deal in this new book." - Candia McWilliam , New Statesman

  • "Sexy, hopelessly romantic, and almost sneakily meditative, Dyer's novel invokes the shades of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but as they might be imagined by Truffaut." - The New Yorker

  • "Paris Trance is a fictional neutron bomb: places, things, pastimes, even emotions remain standing; it is the people who are gone." - Richard Eder, The New York Times

  • "Although Paris Trance doesn't ultimately work -- the danger of writing novels about aimless, distracted people is that you're likely to end up with aimless, distracted novels -- it offers compelling and sometimes beautiful moments." - Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Times Book Review

  • "If you're not dazzled by aestheticized surfaces, formal intricacy, moral complexity and depth of feeling, this isn't the novel for you. It's no page-turner. It's slacking as subject, an anti-thriller with an attitude." - Greg Bottoms, Salon

  • "His language is surprisingly loose, a little careless and trendily slangy; the book can read as if it were written in a great hurry." - Jason Cowley, The Times

  • "As the title of his new book implies, the modern version of the pastoral idyll is provided by a time-stopping trance-state, often drug-induced. But Paris Trance is no paean to cocaine and Ecstasy; rather, the drugs are a device for more serious concerns. (...) Dyer deliberately eschews anything more than an incidental plot, closing off the narrative directions at which he hints." - Tom MacFaul, Times Literary Supplement

  • "(A) fine novel, written with a light, sure touch, affecting far beyond its length and apparent (but only apparent) insubstantiality." - James Sallis, The Washington Post

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:

       Deceptively simple and straightforward, Paris Trance has more depth and resonance than one might initially notice. The story of two Englishmen, Luke and Alex, who meet in Paris, and the two women they fall in love with, Nicole and Sahra, it follows their relatively aimless and unambitious lives for about a year. Luke and Alex work in a warehouse. Luke harbored some ambition of writing a novel when he came to France, but never gets anywhere with it. (Echoes of Dyer's own life, as related in his study of D.H.Lawrence, Out of Sheer Rage (see our review), ring through loud and clear in several of the scenes, as well as the general background.)
       It is a story of friendship and love, and life abroad, and settling into an adult role. Consciously emulating Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald (a number of quotes from Hemingway are incorporated into the text, dutifully listed in the acknowledgements), it is a modern version of expatriate life. The characters are fortunately not too artistic (though obsessed by cinema), and lead relatively unextraordinary lives. Dyer succeeds marvelously at relating much of the minutiae of their daily lives. He plays a bit too much with language in some of the dialogue, clever linguistic riffs, but he pulls it off: we accept the words as coming out of the mouths of these characters.
       One of the characters narrates part of the novel straightforwardly, but most of it is related as though by an omniscient narrator -- a peculiar literary trick that is not entirely successful. Similarly daringly Dyer relates much of the story chronologically, but then jumps ahead on two occasions, to show what has become of the characters years later. It is not entirely satisfactory, but Dyer comes close to pulling it off -- it feels close enough to truth to pass for it.
       Not much happens in the novel -- there are a few dramatic events, but nothing special -- but Dyer writes well enough (generally very well indeed) to entertain throughout, and hold our interest. Often trancelike, it is a pleasant daydream. There is a fair amount of sex, and there are drugs, but they are not forced center stage. Dyer blends them in believably (for most of the novel).
       A nice story, an entertaining story, very well-written, it is a nice complement to Out of Sheer Rage. We recommend it highly.

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Paris Trance: Reviews: Geoff Dyer: Other books by Geoff Dyer under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete 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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