The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 14 February 2003

Yoga for People Who Can't be Bothered to Do It

by Geoff Dyer

This book could easily be pigeon-holed into the subgenre of Travel Memoir, but that would be confining it far too much. Dyer, a diverse traveler, is also a writer trying to make his way in the world. In this series of episodes, taking him from New Orleans to Thailand to Libya to Black Rock City and more, he reflects upon a life of travel and party, and experiences an extended insight into his past and his future. Despite being a moderately successful writer, Dyer sounds like he has lived a life of dissipation, drug use, and somewhat aimless idleness. Certainly, these travel tales would give that impression, but these are travel tales, and idleness is often the point of travel. There is an overall feeling of decay and collapse which progresses through the book. Dyer is clearly searching for something in his promiscuous travels, but what is never clear. There is a certain pointlessness in a lot of the writing here, an aimless wandering in words, but that is also sort of the point. Dyer uses the decay of ancient ruins, and urban ruins, as a metaphor for his accelerating collapse. He does fall in to a minor breakdown, but it is hard to tell the real time line of events. There is a similarity here to some of Hunter S. Thompson's writing. Dyer is, no doubt, producing quality writing on assignment in his travels, but this book is the backstory of the experience. In the end, the last chapter has an odd intermixed tone at Burning Man and at a Thai Buddhist temple. It is hard to determine if this is before or after his breakdown, but he certainly plumbs the experience for its clues to what is happening to him. There is a rambling tone to the pieces included here, but Dyer's writing is fast-paced and often very humorous. He is a bit of a grouch entering upon middle age, but his puzzlement at life at this stage is familiar and real. He rambles a bit (and it is hard to get excited by the two or three drug trips he describes), but this ends up being a rewarding book.

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