Friday, 27 July 2012

Something For The Weekend... Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It

Whatever one feels about the Olympics (for the record I'm quite excited) I think we all know that travelling around is going to be a bit of a nightmare. I would recommend you stay at home but then you won't come to the shop so I won't do that. Instead I will give you something to distract you from all the delays and discomforts. I read it standing in the vestibule of a train travelling from Birmingham to Edinburgh. Actually I read most of it standing in the vestibule of a train not travelling from Birmingham to Edinburgh- I remember one particularly lengthy stop in a field not far from Preston, followed by a couple of hours at Preston Station. It was storms rather than sport which did for that journey but Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It got me through with nothing worse than some odd looks when I dribbled a bit from laughing. It will make your journey better.

So the first thing to say is that it is very very funny. I'm not exactly sure why it's so funny, there are some excellent set pieces but it's not these that mark it out particularly, it's more to do with the tone in which Dyer tells his tales of travel, love, and disaster. I think of it as a book which can't quite make up it's mind about what it is, and the tone reflects this. It resembles a travel memoir- and it is this- but it is also something else: it's a sort of attempt to find coherence from a motley selection of memories. As the pieces progress it becomes clear that for Dyer this motley collection of memories already possess an uncanny coherence, he's just trying to figure out why.

Miraculously, the fact that Dyer doesn't seem entirely sure what is going on does not make it difficult to read. By all rights it should be awful. Essentially what we have is a guy we don't know telling us about the time he took lots of drugs, had lots of sex and visited lots of beautiful and amazing places with beautiful and amazing people. It should be like sitting through the endless holiday snaps of some smug friend-of-a-friend just back from Interailing, but it isn't. A lot of the time the drugs have turned on him, the girl has left him and he's lost. Even when he's blissfully happy and content he know's he's not really; or the older Dyer, the one writing the book, knows he's not really, or that he won't be for much longer. But here again the book eludes us because this sounds sad, is sad, and is also funny. When I wrote that much of the humour lies in the tone I meant that it lies in the gap between the man who had the fun and the man writing about the fun. Sometimes this gap is huge and ironic, then at other times you can almost feel Dyer willing himself back to this beach party or that cafe: it's moving, pathetic, honest and very funny.

By the end of the book Dyer has been from New Orleans to Libya to Cambodia, he's met lots of people, lost contact with just as many, and he's still not certain what is going on, but he does have a better sense of his life and his relationship to his memories. And your nightmarish journey will be over without you noticing it had started.

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