White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World, Geoff Dyer, 2016

Dyer, a 55 year old Brit transplanted to Venice, CA, doesn’t disappoint in this collection of essays, mostly dealing with travel and art.  Combining his usual offbeat viewpoint and sharp wit, he examines places new to me (the Forbidden City, Tahiti, Norway, Watts in LA) along with some quite familiar including the recently visited Lightning Field, Spiral Jetty, White Sands, New Mexico and MFA where he fails to find the Gauguin painting that inspires much of the book, Where do we Come From?  What Are We?  Where are we going?  His interest in jazz, land art, and the paradoxical combination of disappointment and satisfaction brought by travel to iconic places informs all the work.  As in his book length treatment of failing to write his book about D.H. Lawrence, he muses about finding purpose in our days:  “The knowledge that there are things to do, tasks to be completed, is enough to keep postponing them, to give life a sense of projected purpose and improvement.”  Not a bad summary of my OCD projects—Rowe Hill Walks, Cambridge Walks, postcards, MBTA rides, etc.  There was a great connection from Dyer’s mention of Luigi Ghirri’s photography to Ghirri’s work in Georgio Morandi’s studio which we recently visited.   Finally, like Howard Norman’s book of essays entitled I Hate to Leave this Place and the final line of Stanley Kunitz’s poem, The Long Boat ‘he loved the earth so much/he wanted to stay forever’, Dyer ends his final essay with the observation:  “Life is so interesting I’d like to stick around forever, just to see what happens, how it all turns out.”  Must be the universal human and unrequited desire since I feel that way every single day.