"I think he would have found Miami Beach interesting in sort of its earlier incarnations and probably highly toxic in its current one," Max adds. "It's the kind of Miami Beach that gets on the cover of Interview magazine [that] would have been anxiety-provoking for him."
It's true that Wallace despised vanity, even though he spent much of his life as a womanizer who craved affirmation. But before depression led him to take his own life in 2008, he converted to a state of mindfulness and authenticity that Max finds beautiful and more important to chronicle than Wallace's works themselves.
"Who else begins their life as — by his own description — a kind of shallow, star-fucking muse and has this conversion but doesn't miraculously wind up converted to religion itself?" he says. "So many people have kind of gotten into this sort of humanistic triumph through David, and that strikes me as a very important thing to write about." (With Stanley Crouch, Elizabeth Winder, and Greg Bellow on Saturday, November 23, at 1 p.m. in Building 7, first floor, room 7128. Admission is free.) Allie Conti
British author Geoff Dyer counts his latest book, Zona, as one of his "great successful moments." But Dyer isn't exactly commenting on the book itself — rather more on the fact that it got into print in the first place.
In a book-length meditation on Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 film Stalker, Dyer has written, as Zona's tangled subtitle suggests, "about a film about a journey to a room." Not really straight criticism, the experience is a shot-by-shot rundown of the film by a narrator given to mental jazz soloing.
"A book like that is so at odds with everything we're told about what makes a book viable or marketable," Dyer says.
Really, that could be said about a number of the author's titles. While the careers of other writers have followed traditional courses or at least stayed confined to one section of the library, Dyer is reliably all over the map. He mixes fiction with criticism, history with digression, reviews with memoir. Just check out But Beautiful, a book of short poetic meditations on the lives of jazz musicians, or Out of Sheer Rage, his account of trying to write a book about D.H. Lawrence. Both are stone-cold classics, not least because they're completely new takes on tackling nonfiction subjects.
Zona was brewed from a different mix. Dyer was under contract with publishers in the States and the UK to pen a book about tennis. "I began summarizing this film just as a displacement activity to bunk off from doing what I was meant to be doing," he explains. "It was really great fun, but right from the start it seemed absolutely certain this would be unpublishable even if I had enough words."
To the author's surprise, both publishing houses were eager for the book.
Next year will represent another unique publishing event for Dyer. For the first time in the United States, Graywolf Press will publish the author's first two novels, The Colour of Memory and The Search, which first hit the shelves in 1989 and 1993. "It's a weird form of being published posthumously and being around to enjoy it," Dyer says. (In conversation with Miami Rail editor Hunter Braithwaite on Saturday, November 24, at 11 a.m. in Building 8, second floor, room 8203-B. Admission is free.) Kyle Swenson