Geoff Dyer is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the author of four novels and seven works of indeterminate genre. His latest work, White Sands, is an interlaced commentary on the state of the outside world, our place within it, and the role of the writer as regarding both physical and mental geography. Across essays that read like stories, stories that digress into critical discussion, incorporating vignettes and photos, Dyer roves through the particular state of international mentality that has come to characterize modern life.Read This
At Public Books, we strive to find reviewers with local knowledge about their subjects—whether that knowledge comes from homegrown experience or scholarly expertise. Below, we’ve picked out some of our favorite place-specific articles, each one full of local color worthy of Flannery O’Connor or Jamaica Kincaid.Read This
Sake Dean Mahomet was the first Indian writer to attempt a full-fledged book in English and the intrepid founder of first a coffee house and then an unabashedly Orientalist spa in Brighton, England. Growing up at the height of East India Company rule, Mahomet wrote his Travels as a manuscript-length visiting card: he would use these memoirs to pry open the world of English patrons, setting himself up, with unabashed shrewdness, as an explainer of India.Read This
An in-flight magazine, with all its connotations of sticky pages, half-done Sudoku puzzles, and gimmicky ads for bizarre products, seems a strange venue for best-selling literary writers. In-flight magazines are the nadir of non-literary writing, the epitome of what we might call “airplane reading” in a disdainful tone. How, then, does it come to be a destination for A-list authors? Is it simply that art is seen to be therapeutic or uplifting for otherwise miserable passengers?Read This
The masked wrestler La Parka stood apart from other luchadores, from other wrestlers, because he was so honestly and distinctly frail. For all of his antics, at the end of the day, he was just this guy, dressed as a skeleton, trapped in a world filled with invincible men. And so he did what anyone would do. He hit them with chairs. And he danced like a maniac.Read This
With Odysseus Abroad, Amit Chaudhuri reminds us how today’s war refugees encounter many of the same prejudices Chaudhuri’s family once endured when migrating across the British Commonwealth. A celebrated Indian author who writes in English, teaches contemporary literature at the University of East Anglia, and often resides in Calcutta, Chaudhuri sets out to address something far less urgent than the world’s migrant crisis by providing a fictionalized and mildly ironic account of his experience as a graduate student in England.
In 1869 the centennial of naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt’s birth was celebrated around the world. Humboldt’s star has dimmed since, but his scientific and prophetic legacy deserves revival and reevaluation.Read This
The bus from Hermosillo had rimmed out and leveled off on top of the Sierra Madre to begin its can-of-worms slide into Chihuahua when, from the pack between my legs, I took out my map. It covered Mexico from the border to Zacatecas and looking at it required me to stretch my right arm
across the aisle, holding the gulf coast in my hand.
“You won't get lost with a map like that,” said a voice from across the aisle and one row behind me.Read This
“German cinema could not do without her now, we would not permit her death.” So Werner Herzog explained his decision in 1974 to walk the nearly five-hundred-mile distance from Munich to Paris to visit his ailing mentor, the film critic and archivist Lotte Eisner.Read This
Walking there each morning, I begin to recognize young families by their dogs. Two street cleaners in matching jackets push heavy-bristled brooms along the curb.Read This
It’s a Sunday morning, and the light first falls on the squatters who have built their homes on the roof of the colonial telegraph building, an edifice that has been falling into beautiful disrepair since the British built it in 1911.Read This
Imagine an Unbearable Lightness of Being written by a woman who trusts that her readers are smart enough not to need Kundera’s philosophical preaching and you’ve got a taste of Karen Leh’s grievously underrated first novel.Read This
In December of 1933, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out from Holland on foot, following the river Rhine south and the Danube east, headed for Constantinople. It took him over a year to arrive at his destination. Apart from money occasionally wired, he lived off his wits. Picking up languages, customs, and songs like so many walking sticks, he charmed his way into shepherd’s hovels and Transylvanian castles with equal ease.Read This