Working the Room
238 pages

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238 pages

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Alive with insight, wit and Dyer's characteristic irreverence, this collection of essays offers a guide around the cultural maze, mapping a route through the worlds of literature, art, photography and music. Besides exploring what it is that makes great art great, Working the Room ventures into more personal territory with extensive autobiographical pieces - 'On Being an Only Child', 'Sacked' and 'Reader's Block', among other gems. Dyer's breadth of vision and generosity of spirit combine to form a manual for ways of being in - and seeing - the world today.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 novembre 2010
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781847679666
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0520€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


For my mum and dad
‘There are writers for whom no forms exist: too clever for novels, too sceptical for poetry, too verbose for the aphorism, all that is left to them is the essay – the least appropriate medium for the foiled.’
Don Paterson

List of Illustrations


Jacques Henri Lartigue and The Discovery of India
Ruth Orkin’s ‘VE Day’
Richard Avedon
Larry Burrows
Enrique Metinides
Jacob Holdt’s America
Martin Parr’s Small World
Joel Sternfeld’s Utopian Visions
Alec Soth: Riverrun
Michael Ackerman
Trent Parke
Miroslav Tichý
Saving Grace: Todd Hido
Idris Khan
Edward Burtynsky
Turner and Memory
The Awakening of Stones: Rodin
The American Sublime

D.H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers
D.H. Lawrence: Lady Chatterley’s Lover
F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Beautiful and Damned
F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tender is the Night
James Salter: The Hunters and Light Years
Tobias Wolff: Old School
Richard Ford: The Lay of the Land
Denis Johnson: Tree of Smoke
Ian McEwan: Atonement
Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
Lorrie Moore: A Gate at the Stairs
Don DeLillo: Point Omega
The Goncourt Journals
Rebecca West: Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
John Cheever: The Journals
Ryszard Kapuściński’s African Life
W.G. Sebald, Bombing and Thomas Bernhard
Regarding the Achievement of Others: Susan Sontag
The Moral Art of War

Is Jazz Dead?
Editions of Contemporary Me
Fabulous Clothes
The 2004 Olympics
Sex and Hotels
What Will Survive of Us …

On Being an Only Child
On the Roof
Reader’s Block
My Life as a Gatecrasher
Something Didn’t Happen
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition (with particular reference to Donut Plant donuts)
Of Course

Sources and Acknowledgements
List of Illustrations

Black-and-white photographs
Jacques Henri Lartigue: ‘Cap d’Antibes, August 1953’ © Ministère de la Culture – France/AAJHL
Ruth Orkin: ‘Times Square, VE Day, NYC, 1945’ © Ruth Orkin, 1981
‘Celebrants in Times Square on VE Day’ © Bettmann/Corbis
Richard Avedon: ‘W. H. Auden, Poet, St. Mark’s Place, New York, March 3, 1960’ © The Richard Avedon Foundation
Roger Mattingly: ‘Larry Burrows, February 17, 1971’. By kind permission of the photographer
Enrique Metinides: ‘Mexico City, 1972’. Courtesy of Thomas Dane/Ridinghouse
Michael Ackerman: ‘Untitled’, from the series and book Fiction . By kind permission of the photographer
Trent Parke: ‘White Man, 2001’ © Trent Parke/Magnum Photos/Stills Gallery
Miroslav Tichý: ‘Untitled’ © Miroslav Tichý. Private collection
Idris Khan: ‘The Uncanny’, 2006, 70 x 80 inches, Lightjet Print. Courtesy of Idris Khan, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, and Yvon Lambert Gallery, New York
Robert Hall: ‘Ghost Bike’ © Robert Hall, 2008
‘On the Roof’

Colour plates
Jacob Holdt: ‘Palm Beach’ © Jacob Holdt. By kind permission of the photographer
Martin Parr: ‘Acropolis, Athens, Greece’. By kind permission of the photographer and Dewi Lewis Publishing
Joel Sternfeld: ‘Ruins of Drop City, Trinidad, Colorado, August 1995’. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York
Alec Soth: ‘Peter’s Houseboat, Winona, Minnesota’, from Sleeping by the Mississippi © Alec Soth
Todd Hido: ‘#7310-b’ © Todd Hido, 2009. Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery
Edward Burtynsky: ‘Oil Fields #19a’, Belridge, California, USA, 2003. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York
J.M.W. Turner: ‘Figures in a Building’, c .1830–35 © Tate, London, 2010
Jennifer Gough-Cooper: ‘Danaid’ from Apropos Rodin , Thames Hudson, London 2006. By kind permission of the photographer
This collection of essays and reviews follows right on from Anglo- English Attitudes . The last piece in that book was written in 1999; the earliest one here is from the same year. To be honest, nothing much has changed in the interim. I write about whatever happens to interest me, sometimes accepting commissions from editors, sometimes writing pieces and sending them in on spec. A decade from now, by which time I’ll be in my sixties, I hope to have enough new material to bring out a third volume. You see, I’ve got tenure on this peculiarly vacant chair – or chairs, rather. It’s a job for life; more accurately, it is a life, and hardly a day goes by without my marvelling that it is somehow feasible to lead it. As in the earlier collection, there’s no area of specialised concern or expertise; on the contrary, the pleasure, hopefully, lies in the pick ’n’ mix variety, the way one thing leads to another (often quite different) thing.
Actually, one thing has changed: in the last ten years I’ve been asked to contribute introductions to quite a few books, either re-issued literary classics or photographic monographs and catalogues. I love doing this and am especially grateful to the editors who somehow got wind of the idea that I was interested in Rebecca West or Richard Avedon or whoever and gave me the chance to get between the covers of a shared volume with them. This seems to me the greatest privilege that can be afforded any reader (even if it slightly undermines the idea of being – as I claim in a piece to be found later in this volume – a gatecrasher).
Booksellers and customers often complain about the difficulty of knowing where to stock or find my books. A similar problem crops up here. There is, inevitably, a fair bit of seepage between the various categories on the contents page – Visuals, Personals etc. – but, overall, this seemed the least unsatisfactory way of organising the material. To make things a little less rigid these category headings are not indicated within the pages of the text itself, so that the very personal piece on ghost bikes is followed, without warning, by the first categorically Personal piece. Like this there are only invisible, ghostly residues of division in the unfolding continuity of the book.
There is also, inevitably, a bit of repetition. I see I keep coming back to Rebecca West or John Cheever or D.H. Lawrence when I’m writing about other people: they constitute the core of my personal canon, the writers I can’t do without. The fact that Robert Frank keeps coming up as a point of comparison when I’m talking about other photographers might be a symptom of the author’s inadequate frame of reference; or perhaps it shows that there is no getting away from him (I meant Frank but perhaps the same is true of the author).
I originally intended using ‘My Life as a Gatecrasher’ as the title for the whole collection but discarded it for the reason mentioned above. The current title crops up in the essay on Susan Sontag – ‘Critics are always working the room’ – but although it was absolutely perfect I couldn’t use it because Jonathan Lethem had told me, a couple of years earlier, that he had the phrase laid away as the intended title of a future collection of his critical writings. I dropped him a line anyway and asked if he would consider loaning it to me. He agreed, and I’m extremely grateful to him for that characteristic bit of generosity.
G. D., London, June 2010
Working the Room

Jacques Henri Lartigue and The Discovery of India

‘ You can hardly expect me to fall in love with a photograph .’
Jawaharlal Nehru
This photograph was taken by Jacques Henri Lartigue on the Cap d’Antibes in 1953. He was almost sixty by then, had been photographing for half a century. The picture is of a woman – I don’t know who – propped up on a lilo or lounger on the terrace of some presumably luxurious hotel or villa. She’s wearing a swimsuit and one of those fun wigs made of strips of coloured paper that you can buy in party shops. You can’t see her eyes, she’s wearing a pair of big plastic sunglasses, but there’s a hint (and this is the lovely flirty thing about the picture) that she is glancing up at the photographer – which means that she is also glancing up at me, at us – rather than reading the unbelievably serious book in her hands: Nehru’s The Discovery of India ! It looks like it’s about 800 pages long and weighs a ton. It wouldn’t be anything like the same picture if she was reading Bridget Jones’s Diary which, obviously, hadn’t been published back then – but that’s another thing about the picture: it could have been taken yesterday, it could have been taken today (especially now that white sunglasses are in vogue again).
The book is a touch of genius – either the genius of contrivance or of the moment – but, actually, if any element of the picture were removed (the wig, the glasses, the painted nails or lipstick) it would be thoroughly diminished. That’s the thing about all great photos, though. Everything in them is essential – even the inessential bits. It occurs to me that the things that are not in the photographs are also important. The inclusion of certain things can not just diminish a photograph but destroy it. In this case – all the more remarkable in a photograph taken in 1953 – the absence of a cigarette (so often considered an accessory of glamour) or ashtray is crucial to its allure and its contemporaneity. A cigarette would ‘date’ or age the photograph as surely as it ages the faces of the people who smoke them. If there were any evidence of smoking I would have to look away. As it is, I can’t tear my eyes away. I can’t stop looking at her.
So who is she?
But there I go, forgetting one of my own rules about photography, namely that if you look hard enough a photo will always answer your question – even if that answer comes in the form of further questions. Well, whoever she is, she’s beautiful. Actually, I can’t really tell if that’s true, for the simple reason that I can’t see enough of her face. But she must be beautiful, for an equally simple reason: because I’m in love with her. Lartigue, too, I suspect. Now, plenty of men have photographed women they love but this picture depicts the moment when you f

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