Jonathan Lethem Interviews Geoff Dyer

Geoff_Dyer_bodyIn Bomb Magazine:

J[onathan ]L[ethem] In the matter of coming up with a form or structure, I’m eager to talk with you about your new book on Tarkovsky’s Stalker. I’m actually reading it in tandem with revisiting the film—the first time I’ve seen it in 20 years. I’m halfway through both book and film as I write this. The short book that covers another artifact—a book, a film, an album—in scrupulous close description (with plenty of digressions, of course)—is something I’m trying myself. Last year with a film, John Carpenter’s They Live, and right at the moment I’m writing a short book on a Talking Heads album, Fear of Music. (I flatter myself I’m in “Dyerian Mode” when I do this.) If a novel is a mirror walking along a road (somebody said this; in a spirit of Dyerian laziness I’m refusing to Google it), a book like this is a mirror walking hand-in-hand with somebody else’s mirror. I’ll admit I also became fascinated by a weird concurrence in our film-subjects: both Stalker and They Live are films that switch between color and black-and-white (and therefore both get compared to The Wizard of Oz), and both turn on a transformation of the everyday world at roughly the half-hour mark, where the ordinary is revealed as extraordinary. Of course, your film quite respectably avoids wrestlers and ghouls.

G[eoff ]D[yer] Here is an important difference between us. You could do these books as sidelines or diversion, almost, I imagine, writing fiction in the morning and then doing the film or Talking Heads stuff in the afternoon. I operate at a far lower level of energy and inspiration, but a higher pitch of desperation! Generally, I like the idea of short books on one particular cultural artifact as long as they don’t conform to some kind of series idea or editorial template. The madder the better, in my view. I like the idea of an absurdly long book on one small thing. I think we’d agree that the choice of artifact is sort of irrelevant in terms of its cultural standing: all that matters is what it means to you, the author. I had so much fun doing the Stalker book I am tempted to do another, this time on Where Eagles Dare. In fact, I find myself thinking/whining, Why shouldn’t I do that? Plenty of other writers keep banging out versions of the same thing, book after book, why should I always have to be doing something completely new each time?