Events with Julian Barnes and Geoff Dyer
Julian Barnes unexpectedly appeared remotely at the Book Festival this week, which meant the audience sat in the hall as he sat at home.
The interviewer Lee Randall was on stage, we watched him on screen, as did the audience who live-streamed the event. Barnes was talking about “Elizabeth Finch”, his rather dry intellectual novel about a rather dry intellectual teacher who inspires her pupil Neil to write an erudite essay about Julian the Apostate, an essay that forms the middle part of the book.
It all seems rather sparse and structured, but fans of an Anita Brookner style would enjoy the under-statement of this approach and the careful crafting of the writing as it describes a rather shadowy woman.
The cover of the book is worth mentioning. There is an outer cover with small circle and semi- circle holes that opens to reveal a side portrait of Elizabeth Finch, a woman not fully seen.
In addition to this, the outer cover of the hardback edition comes in either blue or yellow, a fortuitous tribute to the Ukraine flag.
Publisher – Random House. Amazon £13.15
Geoff Dyer has an unusual new book “The Last Days of Roger Federer” which concerns itself with artists coming to the end of their productivity, their talent, their last works.
It is a wide ranging book covering the world of sport, music, artists, and many more – Bjorn Borg, Beethoven, Wordsworth, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Nietzsche, Turner, to name but a few.
It is a book about time running out and has a certain built in resonance since it was written during lockdown, a time when life as we know it seemed to be coming to an end.
Dyer made the distinction between an artist who happens unknowingly to have had the last hurrah, and someone like Serena Williams who is planning a carefully orchestrated last appearance.
It took a remark from the audience to have Dyer admit his great oversight – not to have mentioned David Bowie, who had arranged for his last, carefully prepared album to be released right after his death, a curated exit indeed.
This is an interesting book indeed for those of eclectic taste.