It has been a week since Singapore Writers Festival 2014 presented our shores with a myriad of literary goodies from both homegrown wordsmiths and international novelists. From Desmond Kon’s promising take on the local poetry scene to Kamila Shamsie’s insights on the concept of war, we might have had the most exciting year yet.
With a big list of bibliography and an even bigger sense of wit under his belt, British “uncategorised” author Geoff Dyer was always on our radar. We came into the interview armed with our pens and paper, but in the end, his description of Singaporean food as “cold white chicken that was quite soft” left us chuckling half the time.
You have been dubbed “uncategorised” more often than not. In three words, who is Geoff Dyer?
He is me. I am he.
Most of your books have distinct directions and notions that vary. What is the common thread that holds all subjects together?
The one thing that unites this disparate body of work is an objective to address something either I am very passionate about or curious about. Something I want to preserve.
Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, in each instance I try to arrive at a form that is uniquely appropriate to that subject, and would be (perhaps) inappropriate for other subjects. The form any subject takes should derive from the thing, the place, and the situation that it is about.
In your books, which propels fiction more — the character or the plot?
This is a very easy question to answer because I’ve never been able to think of plots. It’s always characters. Actually, characters aren’t even my main thing. The most important thing in fiction for me tends to be the place.
Any writing superstitions and/or rituals?
I tend to write on my computer, and never ever in public. I never write in cafes. I can only do it in private – which suggests to me that it is serves some form of lavatorial function.
As a throwback to yourself during your first book, Ways of Telling, what is the one advice you would give and heed?
It would be: Don’t bother writing this book. Ways of Telling now seems to me to be a rather pointless book. It was a waste of energy and an inadequate tribute to John Berger.
One last question! We know it’s your first time here, so how has it been for you?
I love good citizenship. I love being here because of the people’s incredible manners.
And of course, the food! If you’re India and walking on the street, you see people eating all these amazing street food but you know you can’t eat it or you’ll get ill. Here you can have all the food because it’s so fantastically clean here. The food has just been… knockout.