An extended meditation on late style and last works from “one of our greatest living critics” (Kathryn Schulz, New York).
How and when do artists and athletes know that their careers are coming to an end? What if the end comes early in a writer’s life? How to keep going even as the ability to do so diminishes? In this ingeniously structured meditation, Geoff Dyer sets his own encounter with late middle age against the last days and last works of writers, painters, musicians, and sports stars who’ve mattered to him throughout his life. With playful charm and penetrating intelligence, he considers Friedrich Nietzsche’s breakdown in Turin, Bob Dylan’s reinventions of old songs, J. M. W. Turner’s proto-abstract paintings of blazing light, Jean Rhys’s late-life resurgence, John Coltrane’s final works.
Ranging from Burning Man to Beethoven, from Eve Babitz to William Basinski, from Annie Dillard to De Chirico, Dyer’s study of last things is also a book about how to go on living with art and beauty — and the sudden rejuvenation offered by books, films and music discovered late in life. Praised by Steve Martin for his “hilarious tics” and by Tom Bissell as “perhaps the most bafflingly great prose writer at work in the English language today,” Dyer has now blended criticism, memoir, and badinage of the most serious kind into something entirely new. The Last Days of Roger Federer is a summation of Dyer’s passions, and the perfect introduction to his sly and joyous work.
The paper back of The Last Days of Roger Federer is published by Canongate in May 2023 (UK).
Interview in the Observer (UK)
Interview in Bookforum
“A masterful, beautiful, reluctantly moving book — that is, moving despite its subject being naturally moving, courting no pathos, shrewd and frank — and Dyer’s best in some time. Indeed, one of his best, period.” LA Times
“A serious critic, Dyer is rarely solemn, even when speaking of death, depletion, dissolution, disappointment. Indeed, his wit, a distinctive and delicious blend of salty, sweet and snarky, is on frequent display in his wonderful book.” Washington Post
“Dyer is the Rembrandt of the Red Herring, the Dostoevsky of the Digression, the Shakespeare of the Sidetrack… Dyer is at his own matchless best when being transgressive rather than reverential.” Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
“Equal parts conversational and critical, of the now and of history, The Last Days updates essay writing in the Montaigne style; it’s also regularly laugh-out-loud funny… In this riffing on a multitude of topics, first warming up before giving heft until peaking, Dyer’s style is that of a sage jazz improviser.” Irish Times
“Dyer’s critical range is typically impressive, his breezy erudition taking you, in just a few pages, from John Coltrane’s last recordings to Wordsworth’s The Prelude, from Turner’s late-career abstraction to Martin Amis’s Inside Story.” Prospect
“A wonderfully original writer. Here [Dyer] uses the last days of Roger Federer’s tennis career as a jumping-off point for an examination of late style and last works, ranging from JMW Turner and Jean Rhys to Bob Dylan and John Coltrane.” ―The Times, 2022 Highlights
“[Dyer’s] languid form of chutzpah has also been part of his enduring charm. The mix of self-deprecation and self-importance would just come off as unbearable if it weren’t fueled by his canny observations, his pleasing sentences, his comic timing.” New York Times
“Like all Dyer’s books, The Last Days of Roger Federer feels like what Martin Amis called “a transfusion from above”, but one from your smartest and funniest friend… Tennis is just a sliver of this wide-ranging, eye-opening book… Even while Dyer is enabling us to see things in a new way, he’s riffing brilliantly on stealing bigger and bigger quantities of shampoo from hotels, or being hilariously honest about the tedium of much great literature.” The Times (UK)
“Dyer is a genre-defying master of procrastination, digression and magpie-minded subject-twisting… He is also savagely funny… A book that, despite its gloomy subject, bulges with energy and sings with joy.” The Sunday Times (UK)
“A connoisseur of the humdrum details of failure, Dyer also has a joyous appreciation of the transcendent and the triumphant… It is knee supports on both legs that now keep him on the tennis court, but like Federer, it is a reserve of flair, touch, timing and a keen eye that keeps him in the game.” Guardian
“The chimerical ability to change tone, register and timbre not just across a page, or a paragraph, but within a sentence is quite breath-taking… I would not want the reader to garner the impression that the book is in any way morbid or po-faced. Dyer can be exceptionally funny… Dyer’s work manages the trick of feeling spontaneous, free-wheeling and intimate, and such a feat is hard won and honed. ” The Scotsman
“Few contemporary prose writers are as abundantly quotable as Dyer… Witty, soul-baring, elegantly meditative.” The Spectator
“Dyer’s observations of the everyday – the realisation that the contents of a book recently read have already been forgotten, the concern for how to make the best of remaining time – will have those of a similar age leaping from their chairs in shocked recognition at his precise capturing of entirely familiar niggling worries, regrets and states of mind (if their leaping days are not already over).” South China Post
“Geoff Dyer, one of Britain’s finest cultural critics and essayists, has made a career of mining ebullient fandom, but his latest, the exquisitely titled The Last Days of Roger Federer, a book about “how things end”, is his greatest ode to mindful vicariousness.” Spectator World
“What a capacious sensibility this cultural magpie has, chatting to the reader in warmly companionable fashion, his prose peppered with self-deprecatory humour and footnoted asides, his erudition never pompous or platitudinous… These may be last days for Dyer as they are for Federer, but there’s always somewhere else to go, even if it’s only inwards.” The Telegraph
“Dyer’s mix of sparkling prose, rich insight, and mordant wit suggests that a well-lived life is worth even the bitterest of endings. It makes for a smart, memorable take.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Tennis, jazz, Dylan, movies, drugs, Nietzsche, Beethoven. So why am I laughing? Because Geoff Dyer once again melds commentary and observation with intellect and wit. Bouncing between criticism and memoir, Dyer is one of the few writers whose paragraphs I can immediately reread and get more from. The twists, turns, and delights abound, and when you finally put the book down you think, ‘Oh, yes, I’ve always been this smart, haven’t I?’” ―Steve Martin
“More than its title would suggest, The Last Days of Roger Federer is an engaging series of meditations on mental and physical sunsets in the lives of painters, musicians, philosophers, poets, boxers, and of course tennis players. Dyer the stylist is at the top of his game here, serving up conundrums, paradoxes, logical binds, and other cerebral delights. Even his syntax is witty. This generous offering of Dyer’s insightful, often hilarious, take on art, life, and sports is a feast for his readers.” ―Billy Collins, former United States Poet Laureate
“Just like Roger Federer’s backhand Geoff Dyer’s swing is a thing of beauty, complete with his signature follow through. He captures so much, touches so much and amuses the while. This form-blending book is extremely smart, wise, and simply plain fun. I am smarter for having read it. This is a great book.” ―Percival Everett, author of The Trees
“Most authors use language to write about things. Geoff Dyer uses things to write about language. He’s a clever clogs but he’s one of us at the same time. Genius.” ―Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
“Who can make the world new again like Geoff Dyer? For the low low price of a book, he will rearrange the art on the walls of your memory so that you might see it again, as if for the first time. The Last Days of Roger Federer is an inspired cultural and personal mediation as well as an unsurprising delight. To read it is to feel relief that, despite Dyer’s contention that his life’s theme is ‘giving up,’ he hasn’t.” ―Sloane Crosley, author of Look Alive Out There
“Sumptuous, wide-ranging, streetwise, and precise, The Last Days of Roger Federer is a glorious ode to tennis, the arts, late style, and life itself. Full of surprises, hard truths, and deep feeling, this is a work like none other. Time remains undefeated, and yet Geoff Dyer’s beautiful, unsparing book feels like it can go toe-to-toe with it––from the baseline or the net. An essential read.” ―Rowan Ricardo Phillips, author of The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey and Living Weapon
“The Last Days of Roger Federer showcases Geoff Dyer’s gifts as one of the most distinctive writers of our times. Whether he’s writing about tennis, Nietzsche, Burning Man or growing old, Dyer brings such impeccable observation, original intelligence, and laugh-out-loud wit to the page that you want to keep on reading more―the perfect quality for a book about endings.” ―Maya Jasanoff, Chair of the 2021 Booker Prize judges and author of The Dawn Watch
“Geoff Dyer’s wry meditations on mortality and late style have a dazzling way of dispelling gloom. Nietzsche and the Turin horse, vaporised Turner, dolorous Dylan, antics on courts and at Burning Man, Dyer’s Last Days had me laughing aloud, a sure signal of deft seriousness. What is there to say except if this is late Dyer, it’s great Dyer.” ―Lisa Appignanesi