Yoga for people who can't be bothered to do it

by Geoff Dyer

Hardcover, 2003




New York : Pantheon Books, c2003.


From Amsterdam to Cambodia, from Rome to Indonesia, from New Orleans to Libya, and from Detroit to Ko Pha-Ngan, Geoff Dyer finds himself both floundering about in a sea of grievances and finding moments of transcendental calm. This aberrant quest for peak experiences leads, ultimately, to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, where, to quote Tarkovsky'sStalker, 'your most cherished desire will come true'.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jnwelch
Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer is a fairly slim collection of essays that might be called travel memoirs, but that would be like calling Carnivale a street fair. There's a lot going on here that is awfully hard to categorize. Some readers would take to this like a duck to water, and some like a cat to water.

What you might not like:

- Recreational drugs are central to much that happens. A number of times I was reminded of Hunter Thompson's post-Hell's Angels books. On a trip in Rome: "Did I neglect to mention that we had dropped a couple of micro-dots an hour and a half previously? Well, if I did, we had. It was part of my investigations into the research potential of what I liked to call acid archaeology, or psychedelica antiqua: using LSD to scrape away the intervening years and achieve unmediated access to the living past. Either that or it was just a way of whiling away the weeklong days."

- He is often filled with ennui. The title piece is about a piece of that title that he can't be bothered to write.

- His thinking often goes around in circles. For example, the title piece is about a piece of that title that he can't be bothered to write.

- He's often in despair, either because of a breakup with a girlfriend or because he's just in some unbelievably depressing area, like (as he describes it), Libya.

- He flits about in a maddening way that you'll probably envy, dropping names of exotic locales, and he meets lots of people you may not care about. "The best example {of dissolving the separation of the viewer from the view} is the overflow pool, which has become such a feature of upmarket resorts in Bali, like Sayan Terrace, where we stayed when we came back from Ubud after an abortive trip to Lovina with our friend Gregor from Munich, whom we had met at the Kuang Si waterfalls, near Luang Prabang, in Laos."

- He can make you want to kick him in the butt, while you're envying him: "In Rome I lived in the grand manner of writers. I basically did nothing all day. Not a thing. Perhaps this is why I was such a seductive role model for many of the aspiring writers who lived nearby. More exactly, I was a role model for Nick, the youthful American who lived opposite, who had not read any of my books and to whom my name meant nothing."

What you might like:

- There are many beautiful stretches of writing. I liked this one, about Ubud in Bali: "We'd never seen anything as green as these rice paddies. It was not just the paddies themselves: the surrounding vegetation - foliage so dense the trees lost track of whose leaves were whose - was a rainbow coalition of one colour: green. There was an infinity of greens, rendered all the greener by splashes of red hibiscus and the herons floating past, so white and big it seemed as if sheets hung out to dry had suddenly taken wing. All other colours - even purple and black - were shades of green. Light and shade were degrees of green. Greenness, here, was less a colour than a colonising impulse. Everything was either already green - like a snake, bright as a blade of grass, sidling across the footpath - or in the process of becoming so. Statues of the Buddha were mossy, furred with green." And he goes on, and I'd probably still be reading about how green it was if he were still writing it.

- He has some great lines, e.g. in one treacherous area, "Every branch and rock exuded snake."

- He can be really, really funny. E.g. his current flame tests him: "Without any warning, Dazed asked what I would do if she threw herself in front of one of these cars. I said I didn't know, but my general policy is not to get involved." In an extended nightmare while he is trashed on, yes, more drugs, he's trying to change from rainwet pants to dry ones in a cafe toilet, without much success: "In the cramped confines of the toilet I had trouble getting out of my wet trousers, which clung to my legs like a drowning man. The new ones were quite complicated too in that they had more legs than a spider; either that or they didn't have enough legs to get mine into. The numbers failed to add up. Always there was one trouser leg too many or one of my legs was left over. From the outside it may have looked like a simple toilet, but once you were locked in here the most basic rules of arithmetic no longer held true." If that makes you chuckle, you'll want to find out what he ends up wearing when he leaves the toilet.

-He does things you may have dreamed of doing, and makes you wish you had been there with him. I've always been intrigued by the Burning Man festival in Nevada, and of course, he goes there and enchants us with the tale.

Part of why as a reader I was willing to put up with some of his nonsense (and he surely knows it's nonsense) is he laughs at himself, and cries at himself, and sincerely is trying to sort it all out, to make sense of his life, and of our lives. So if some of the above sounds like fun and the rest not too bad, he's worth the read. The guy is brilliant, that's for sure.
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LibraryThing member smerus
Came laden with review of how it was witty, wise and informed. In fact is it a smug, self-conscious slab of would-be chic/downbeat journalism at its worst. The title is the only good thing about it - that gets it its half-star. Putrid.
LibraryThing member Capybara_99
A collection of non-fiction pieces by Geoff Dyer, located somewhere closer to memoir than to travel writing. The reader learns much more about Dyer than about the various locations -- I imagine that these pieces have uncollected magazine piece companions, which somewhat more conventionally describe the outside world for more than its effect on Dyer. But I suppose those more conventional pieces are not only uncollected, but unwritten as well.

That shouldn't be taken as criticism of the book -- I found it often mordently funny, and the picture of Dyer, frequently miserable and always searching for some moment of transcendence, a transcendence most likely to be found under a patch of open sky framed by some ruined structure, to be quite moving. The reader of "Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi" will recognize the components of that book in this one.
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LibraryThing member Djupstrom
Funny tittle...unfortunately that's where the cleverness ends.
LibraryThing member IronMike
Geoff Dyer's more recent book, "Jeff in Venice/Death in Varanasi," won my vote for best book of the year; so I figured I'd see what his earlier books were like. I was particularly interested in learning about "Burning Man" which Dyer said was one of the highlights of his life. "Burning Man" is a happening which takes place in the Nevada desert each year: art, music, etc., and I figured maybe I should chance going there. The "Yoga" book concludes with Geoff's descriptions of "Burning Man" but it did not inspire me to head out there...(although I do visit Nevada often.) Geoff was there for the first "Burning Man" in 1990, and again in 1991. I think it was different in those days. Nowadays, they inspect your vehicle before they let you in, for stuff like "2-ply toilet paper" (not permitted), and at my age I do need my 2-ply. And I'll use ever more-plys if you got 'em.

Well, the book is "Jeff in Venice/Death in Varanasi" - Light. Dyer travels around the globe, gets "stoned" pretty much everywhere, beds pretty much every woman he meets, gets "stoned" some more, wanders around modern cities or ancient ruins, can't find his hotel he's so stoned, wanders around some more, quotes Rilke and Auden to complete strangers, finds something called "The Zone" where he feels at one with the universe and it brings him to tears, etc etc etc.

Definitely good reading for subway riders on the way to work. That's the true "Zone."
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LibraryThing member cliffagogo
A collection of Dyer’s adventures in various locations, described in a humorous and informal style that makes for compulsive reading. The end of the book leaves you feeling satisfied and yet craving more. Perfect summer reading.
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Or, how to travel in a perpetually bad frame of mind and still get something out of it. A funny man pokes fun at himself (though at times he tries a bit too hard) and has a lot of fun along the way. Travel writing will never be the same. "I am near to where I started -- but I am nearer to giving up."
LibraryThing member adrianburke
Really enjoyed this. So much so that have bought Simon a copy for Christmas. Rambling and rolling but actually very well written to write about boredom and the modern condition so well.
LibraryThing member adzebill
Better than I remembered, a druggy deadpan travelogue from a man conflicted about growing older and quoting philosophers on the way. Fairly unclassifiable.
LibraryThing member phoebesmum
Part travelogue, part philosophical ramblings, but what sticks in the mind are the (numerous) women he slept with, what drugs he took, and the chlamydia he caught in New Orleans. As well as one passage that’s more Sorkinese than Sorkin.


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