Geoff Dyer’s Q&A: “I love doing housework – I find it extremely fulfilling”

The author on Bob Dylan, Veep and ignoring advice from dad. 

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Geoff Dyer was born in Cheltenham in 1958. He is the author of four novels and numerous works of non-fiction, on topics including yoga, jazz and John Berger.

What’s your earliest memory?

Weirdly, I don’t think I have one, or at least any memories I do have seem to come from long after they should have started piling up. Did I – or maybe that should be “do I” – suffer from infantile dementia?

Who are your heroes?

In childhood: Peter Osgood. (I even loved his sideburns.) As an adult: Roger Federer.

What book last changed your thinking?

My thinking is being changed by a book as I speak, and it’s not even published yet. John McWhorter is such a prolific fellow that his heretical book The Elect – about critical race theory as a religion – wasn’t due out until next year as a pause was deemed necessary after his recent publication Nine Nasty Words. In the meantime he’d taken to posting increments of the new book on the internet and, it seems, has changed his own thinking too: the book now has a new title, Woke Racism, and is coming out in October.

Which political figure do you look up to?

I’m tempted to say Dennis Skinner because I like his uncompromising contempt for the Tories (he was ahead of the curve in calling Cameron “Dodgy Dave”) but in some respects he’s a dinosaur, ontologically incapable of recognising the changed conditions (of history, ironically) that render him almost extinct.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

The life and work of Bob Dylan between 1964 and 1978.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

The 1960s in America so I could have seen John Coltrane et al play live.

What TV show could you not live without?

Veep because it is the funniest show I’ve ever seen – far funnier than The Thick of It from which it was derived (but which became over-reliant on the tiresome Peter Capaldi swearing the whole time).

Who would paint your portrait?

Anyone who would do it for nothing.

What’s your theme tune?

“Theme de Yoyo” by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, even if that makes it sound like I’ve stolen someone else’s.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

From my dad: “Never put anything in writing.” I haven’t followed it.

What’s currently bugging you?

Pretty much everything. I’m not on any social media so my direct exposure to tweets is limited, but Twitter – used as a metonym for the larger phenomenon of highly infectious idiocy – still infiltrates my consciousness.

What single thing would make your life better?

A cure for this terrible and apparently incurable tennis elbow.

When were you happiest?

Every time I took ecstasy.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

Since I love doing housework and find it extremely fulfilling I am tempted to say “cleaner”, but since this is a sub-set of a larger love of self-reliance I know I would resent cleaning up other people’s shit.

Are we all doomed?

I doubt it and even if we are it doesn’t make any difference in the long or short term.


“See/Saw” by Geoff Dyer is published by Canongate

This article appears in the 02 June 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Return of the West

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