Flowing through art and death

Book Review: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer (Pantheon).

Traveling to Venice for the Biennale, journalist Jeff Atman feels as bound to write a story about contemporary art as the author is determined to tell us a story about Jeff Atman.

Art expositions, acute observations, bellini-swigging festivities, and the fineries of drunken and high-on-cocaine hobnobbing set the reader firmly in an art-laden Venice. But as the novel follows what becomes for Jeff, the journalist, an intense but perhaps short-lived romance with an American woman; Geoff, the author, establishes a love for life-in-the-moment, propelling the reader from a third-person venture in Venice to a first-person immersion in Varanasi, ancient holy city of India.

Lost in an entirely different journey of quiet isolation and cultural immersion, we wade into the River Ganges.  It seeps into our blood like the canals of Venice, thick with human mire and beauty. The narrative flows long and slow from middle to end, washing away expectations of plot, to carry us through a sacred human experience.