My review of Dyer’s latest was published yesterday at B&N. Full review here.
One of Dyer’s strengths as a critic is to exude an honesty that inspires confidence. So it is that he begins Otherwise Known by immediately admitting that these omnibus collections have something intrinsically spurious about them: “This kind of put-together is considered a pretty low form of book, barely a book at all.” Yet that admission is barely made before Dyer flips it on its back, confiding that he has long aspired toward one of these fat, stately volumes, wanting it ever since he began publishing. His preference comes from his own experience: “If I see a piece by a writer I admire in a paper I very rarely read it,” he says, instead waiting to read it in a book of collected writings. Not only that, but the form of the omnibus volume fits his aesthetic perfectly: “It was, precisely, the unruly range of my concerns that I was keen to see represented in a single volume.”
Anyone who knows Dyer’s genre-defying, promiscuous works of nonfiction will understand his affection for an unruly range of concerns; moreover, in a digital age there’s a clear logic to this. With a critic like Dyer dispatching so many pieces on such wide-ranging topics to such diverse corners of the Internet, who can keep up? A collected works begins to like a supremely sedate, sensible way to go.
But it must be said that, as good and reasonable as this all sounds, one never quite loses the suspicion that Dyer was chuckling to himself as he wrote his introduction, or most of the pieces that follow . . .