MoCA Book Club Goes to Venice and Then Dips in the Ganges

OK, I lied. The MoCA Book Club will not actually go to Italy Wednesday night. Nor will it really follow up with a trip to India. But if the reports of Geoff Dyer's Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi (Pantheon, $24) are even half-accurate, the club will immerse in a book that's perhaps the next best thing to going there -- or for that matter, anywhere. And with assistant curator Ruba Katrib as your gifted guide, it's a cinch this tour will be unlike any one you've taken before.

The subject, of course, is Dyer's dynamite chronicle of two lives more or less foretold in a kinda crumbling Technicolor. Well, it might be two lives. Dyer has said his book is "obviously a diptych." But whether the Jeff who's in Venice is the twin of the unnamed narrator in Varanasi or is in fact the very same man, he won't say. Both are London-based hacks pretty much at the end of their tether. And each is to his own in only so many ways.

But oh how wicked are those ways. Jeff Atman is covering the Venice Biennale. But between Bellinis,  he barely covers any art at all. When he connects with a dame named Laura, his only concern becomes covering her with as much lust as he can muster.

The journo in novella two is on a very different kind of pilgrimage, one more of the spirit rather than of the flesh. But with the teeming mass of bodies surrounding him and another affair developing right before his eyes, he can't keep his mind on any matter much above the belt. Hell, you might think he can't keep his mind at all.

This past May, The New Yorker Book Club spent the whole month devoted to Dyer's wily work. And if you're looking for a few good talking points, you might wish to Google what they wrought. Then again, you're a smart one; otherwise you wouldn't be reading this right now. And you sure wouldn't have known enough to read a book as explicitly delicious as Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanisi. In other words, you probably don't need no stinking New Yorker to tell you what to say.

We can say that in this day of hustle and blather, there are far too few places where minds can meet with any kinda keen, let alone mix amid any sorta splendor. And MoCA's monthly confab is one of those too few. If you dig art and you dig books and you dig conversation, this night is really for you. Don't you kinda sorta really owe it to yourself to go?

I thought so.

MoCA Book Club gets with Geoff Dyer's Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi September 2 at 7:30 p.m. It's free and exclusively for MoCA members, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami. For more information,  call 305-893-6211 or visit MOCA's site. Get the lowdown on Dyer at The Complete Review.

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