On my radar: Geoff Dyer’s cultural highlights


The writer and critic Geoff Dyer was born in Cheltenham in 1958 and educated at Oxford University. Over the past 32 years, he has published four novels as well as nonfiction works on topics including John Berger and the film Stalker. In 1992 he won the Somerset Maugham award for But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz. His latest book, Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, a scene-by-scene comic analysis of the 1968 film Where Eagles Dare, is published by Penguin on Thursday.

1. Music
The Necks: Body (2018)

The Necks at Festival Météo, 2017.

My love of this Australian trio shows no sign of diminishing after God knows how many albums and live performances in their 30-year career. As usual the new release is a single hour-long track but this time in four distinct sections. And whereas live they’re always just piano, bass and drums, the studio albums can involve overdubbing, so drummer Tony Buck here doubles up on electric guitar. I won’t spoil listeners’ enjoyment by saying exactly when it happens but at one point Body rocks so hard and suddenly that the G-force will pin you back in your seat.





Geoff Dyer in his Lomer trekking shoes



Geoff Dyer in his Lomer trekking shoes. Photograph: Courtesy: Geoff Dyer

On a plane from Iceland I noticed the guy in the seat across the aisle wearing really cool shoes. They were made by an Italian company I’d never heard of and buying them online proved tricky. The ones I liked were from their urban hiking range: stylish, resilient and (the guy on the plane had allowed me to try on his) comfy as slippers. I had to get the right size couriered to Rome from a store near the company’s mysterious HQ. This needed to be done in a hurry as I was only there for a couple days so the Lomer person said he would send them right away – we could sort out payment later. That’s how to build customer loyalty! I now own three pairs.





Alex Honnold, left, meets other climbers as he practises on El Capitan’s Freerider route in Free Solo



Alex Honnold, left, meets other climbers as he practises on El Capitan’s Freerider route in Free Solo. Photograph: Jimmy Chin

A chasm separates my lack of desire to go mountain climbing and an insatiable desire to watch films about people climbing mountains – on my sofa, wearing my Lomers. I’m guessing that advances in camera technology mean that we’re in a golden age of climbing docs. The first of these two vertiginous films follows Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson attempting the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite. Free Solo is even freer in that Alex Honnold, while opting for an easier shimmy up El Capitan, does so without partner or ropes: a sheer existential definition of self.





Major General George Armstrong Custer, 1865.



Major General George Armstrong Custer, 1865. Photograph: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Granted, it’s not new (I got my faded copy in 1986) but I’ve only just read this book on the Battle of the Little Bighorn. There have been plenty of books about the “last stand” which saw Custer’s Seventh Cavalry wiped out by a loose alliance of Native Americans already pushed to the brink of extinction, but this remains in a league of its own. It reads as if Roberto Calasso has been let loose in the wild west to pursue his researches in obsessively detailed documentary mode, with unwavering stylistic assurance. A masterpiece!





Paris 1972 by Luigi Ghirri. The Vegini collection Courtesy of MACK



Paris 1972 by Luigi Ghirri. Photograph: The Vegini collection Courtesy of MACK

Ghirri was Italy’s visionary of the gorgeous ordinary, the minutely mysterious: mirrors in a beachside urinal, petrol stations on roads to nowhere, eye-opening Venetian blinds, sky-drenched puddles… Curated by James Lingwood, this long-awaited retrospective of colour photographs was unveiled in Essen, opened in Madrid on Wednesday and travels to Paris next year. My radar shows no signs of its coming to our island fortress – why on earth not? – but consolation is available in the form of a handsome catalogue.





The Temple Project at Burning Man in 2016



Outside the Temple Project at Burning Man in 2016. 70,000 people attended the event’s 30th anniversary show. Photograph: Jim Urquhart/Reuters

I returned to Black Rock City this year after a 13-year absence. The death of founder Larry Harvey in April meant that this always had the potential to be a special year but in the event – and in the interests of avoiding hyperbole – several things became apparent. One, it was, even more stupendous than when I first went in 1999. Two, the quality of art has improved to the extent that Burning Man has left other contemporary art gatherings trailing in its (very dusty) wake. Three, will I ever experience a performance of The Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th more moving than that offered by the Black Rock Philharmonic at the Temple? Four, I’m never going again.



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