Saturday 28 January 2017

Review: White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World

White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World by Geoff Dyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this series of ten essays, Geoff Dyer explores the reasons why we travel using examples from the excursions that he makes. He travels to China to see the Forbidden City in Beijing where he starts to become besotted with his guide there. From his home-town of Los Angeles, he makes a pilgrimage to visit the residence of TW Adorno and the art that is the Watts Towers. There is a trip to Mexico to visit the art installation of Walter De Maria called The Lightning Field and the amazing Spiral Jetty draws him to Utah. A trip north to see the aurora borealis with his wife and she is with him again in New Mexico after visiting White Sands where they collect a hitchhiker and then see a sign advising against it…

A trip that has lots of activity for him would be boring, as we see when he goes to French Polynesia to trace the ghosts of Gauguin and it falls a little flat. But it is the journeys that don’t work that gives him scope to explore the inner recesses of his mind and to explore the reasons behind us travelling. Is it for the experiences or the desire to tell people what we have done? Slightly surreal at times, it is really well written in some of the essays, he is very perceptive and his bone-dry wit makes this book amusing quite often. Some of it is fictionalised, and it does feel embellished at times, almost as though he is responding to the desire to convince people that he had great time. You can travel in the mind as much as in the physical world, but his final essay is about a profound life changing event that he has. Some great parts; others less so, but interesting nonetheless.

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