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  • Written by Geoff Dyer
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A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room

Written by Geoff DyerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Geoff Dyer

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List Price: $11.99

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On Sale: February 21, 2012
Pages: 192 | ISBN: 978-0-307-90701-1
Published by : Vintage Knopf
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

From a writer whose mastery encompasses fiction, criticism, and the fertile realm between the two, comes a new book that confirms his reputation for the unexpected.

In Zona, Geoff Dyer attempts to unlock the mysteries of a film that has haunted him ever since he first saw it thirty years ago: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. (“Every single frame,” declared Cate Blanchett, “is burned into my retina.”) As Dyer guides us into the zone of Tarkovsky’s imagination, we realize that the film is only the entry point for a radically original investigation of the enduring questions of life, faith, and how to live.

In a narrative that gives free rein to the brilliance of Dyer’s distinctive voice—acute observation, melancholy, comedy, lyricism, and occasional ill-temper—Zona takes us on a wonderfully unpredictable journey in which we try to fathom, and realize, our deepest wishes.

Zona is one of the most unusual books ever written about film, and about how art—whether a film by a Russian director or a book by one of our most gifted contemporary writers—can shape the way we see the world and how we make our way through it.

Excerpt

An empty bar, possibly not even open, with a single table, no bigger than a small round table, but higher, the sort you lean against—there are no stools—while you stand and drink. If floorboards could speak these look like they could tell a tale or two, though the tales would turn out to be one and the same, ending with the same old lament (after a few drinks people think they can walk all over me), not just in terms of what happens here but in bars the world over. We are, in other words, already in a realm of universal truth. The barman comes in from the back—he’s wearing a white barman’s jacket—lights a cigarette and turns on the lights, two fluorescent tubes, one of which doesn’t work properly: it flickers. He looks at the flickering light. You can see him thinking, ‘That needs fixing’, which is not the same thing at all as ‘I’ll fix that today’, but which is very nearly the same as ‘It’ll never be fixed.’ Daily life is full of these small repeated astonishments, hopes (that it might somehow have fixed itself overnight) and resignations (it hasn’t and won’t). A tall man—a customer!—enters the bar, puts his knapsack under the table, the small round table you lean against while drinking. He’s tall but not young, balding, obviously not a terrorist, and there’s no way that his knapsack could contain a bomb, but this unremarkable action—putting a knapsack under the table in a bar—is not one that can now go unremarked, especially by someone who first saw Stalker (on Sunday, February 8, 1981) shortly after seeing Battle of Algiers. He orders something from the barman. The fact that the barman’s jacket is white emphasizes how not terribly clean it is. Although it’s a jacket it also serves as a towel, possibly as a dishcloth, and maybe as a hankie too. The whole place looks like it could be dirty but it’s too dingy to tell and the credits in yellow Russian letters—sci-fi Cyrillic—do not exactly clarify the situation.
 
It’s the kind of bar men meet in prior to a bank job that is destined to go horribly wrong, and the barman is the type to take no notice of anything that’s not his business and the more things that are not his business the better it is for him, even if it means that business is so slow as to be almost nonexistent. Far as he’s concerned, long as he’s here, minding his own business and wearing his grubby barman’s jacket, he’s doing his job, and if no one comes and no one wants anything and nothing needs doing (the wonky light can wait, as can most things) it’s all the same to him. Still smoking, he trudges over with a coffeepot (he’s one of those barmen who has the knack of imbuing the simplest task with grudge, making it feel like one of the labours of a minimum-wage Hercules), pours some coffee for the stranger, goes out back again and leaves him to it, to his coffee, to his sipping and waiting. Of that there can be no doubt: the stranger is defi nitely waiting for something or someone. 
 
***
A caption: some kind of meteorite or alien visitation has led to the creation of a miracle: the Zone. Troops were sent in and never returned. It was surrounded by barbed wire and a police cordon. . . .
 
This caption was added at the behest of the studio, Mosfilm, who wanted to stress the fantastical nature of the Zone (where the subsequent action will be set). They also wanted to make sure that the ‘bourgeois’ country where all this happened could not be identified with the USSR. Hence this mysterious business of the Zone all happened—according to the caption—‘in our small country’, which put everyone off the scent because the USSR, as we all know, covered a very large area and Russia was (still is) huge too. ‘Russia . . .’, I can hear Laurence Olivier saying it now, in the Barbarossa episode of The World at War. ‘The boundless motherland of Russia.’ Faced with the German invasion of 1941, Russians fell back on the traditional strategy, the strategy that had done for Napoleon and would do for Hitler too: ‘Trade space for time’, a message Tarkovsky took to heart.

Geoff Dyer

About Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer - Zona

Photo © Chris Steele-Perkins

GEOFF DYER's most recent work, Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush was published by Pantheon Books in May 2014. His previous books include But Beautiful (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award); The Missing of the Somme; Out of Sheer Rage; The Ongoing Moment (winner of the ICP Infinity Award for writing on photography); Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi; and Zona. His many awards include the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and, most recently, a National Book Critics Circle Award for the essay collection Otherwise Known as the Human Condition. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and his books have been translated into twenty-four languages. Dyer currently lives in Venice, California.

Praise

Praise

“Extremely clever. . . . Dyer’s evocation of Stalker is vivid; his reading is acute and sometimes brilliant.” —New York Times Book Review

"The most stimulating book on a film in year." —The New Republic

"We all know what it is like to feel indebted to, and inadequate before, a towering work, but few people have ever described that feeling with the ingenuity or the candor of Dyer. . . . [T]he book is not only readable, it is hard to put down." —The New York Review of Books

“Testifying to the greatness of an underappreciated work of art is the core purpose of criticism, and Dyer has delivered a loving example that’s executed with as much care and craft as he finds in his subject.” —Los Angeles Times

“An unclassifiable little gem. . . . Very funny and very personal.” —San Francisco Chronicle 

“An engaging piece of writing that asks questions about the nature of art and provides a new way to write about film.” —The Atlantic

“Irresistible. . . . Dyer is an enormously seductive writer. He has a wide-ranging intellect, an effortless facility with language, and a keen sense of humor.” —Slate
 
“[Dyer] finds elements along the way that will keep even non-cinéastes onboard. While he dedicates ample energy to how the movie’s deliberate pacing runs contrary to modern cinema, its troubled production and the nuts and bolts of its deceptively simple parts, Dyer’s rich, restless mind draws the reader in with specific, personal details.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“Geoff Dyer is at his discursive best in Zona.” —New York Times Magazine
 
“Intimate, engaging, often brilliant.” —Michael Wood, London Review of Books
 
“You can read this book in 162 minutes and come away refreshed, enlivened, infuriated, amused, thoughtful, and mystified. An invigorating mixture of responses, but this is a Geoff Dyer book. . . . The most stimulating book on a film in years.” —David Thomson, The New Republic
 
“If any film demands book-length explication from a writer of Geoff Dyer’s caliber, it’s surely Stalker. . . . Dyer is, as the book amply demonstrates, the perfect counterpart to Tarkovsky. Where the film director is stubbornly slow and obscure, Dyer is a fleet and amusing raconteur with a knack for amusing digressions.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“[Dyer] combines a rigorous scholarship and criticism with whimsical digressions, both fictional and autobiographical, to create the light but heady concoction that’s become his signature.” —Time Out New York
 
“Dyer has been just under the radar for many years now, but [he] deserves the widest of audiences as he writes books that are funny, off-beat and hugely informative. This latest is ostensibly about the Russian filmmaker Tarkovsky, but it’s really about life, love and death—with many jokes and painful-but-true bits along the way.” —Details
 
Zona is an unpretentious yet deeply involving discussion of why art can move us, and an examination of how our relationship to art changes throughout our lives. It’s also funny, moving and unlike any other piece of writing about a movie.” —The Huffington Post
 
“Dyer’s language is at its most efficient in this book, conversational and spare. . . . Cultural artifacts worthy of this degree of obsession are rare and it’s a pleasure to read Dyer’s wrestling with one.” —New York Observer 
 
“Fascinating. . . . Dyer remains a uniquely relevant voice. In his genre-jumping refusal to be pinned down, he’s an exemplar of our era. And invariably, he leaves you both satiated and hungry to know where he’s going next.” —NPR
 
“The comedy and stoner’s straining for meaning is always present. And, when it is rewarded, as it so often is with rich associative memoir and creative criticism in Zona, we feel complicit, we celebrate the sensation at the end of all that straining, alongside with him.” —The Daily Beast
 
“Fascinating. . . . Dyer’s unpredictable and illuminating observations delighted and amused . . . all the way through.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 
“Wickedly funny. . . . The definitive work of an author whose work refuses definition.” —Austin American-Statesman
 
“[Zona] is about the power of art. It is a case study in how something created by anyone but you can seem like your creation, so deeply does it resonate with the details of your life. This is what Stalker calls the ‘unselfishness of art’ and it is Geoff Dyer’s gift to his readers.” —The Millions
 
“Geoff Dyer has tricked up Tristram Shandy, cross-bred it with Lady Gaga, and come up with an insightful, audacious, deeply personal, often hilarious and entertaining approach to literature in a world which doesn’t much appreciate art or even the book itself. He is one of the most interesting writers at work today in English.” —Wichita Eagle
 
“Dyer’s musings on everything from on-set disasters to his desire to join a threesome make for a rich and wacky sojourn.” —Mother Jones

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