Magazine article Geographical

Geoff Dyer

Magazine article Geographical

Geoff Dyer

Article excerpt

Geoff Dyer is an author whose most recent book, Another Fine Day at Sea, took him aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush as writer-in-residence. His previous works have included an eclectic round-the-world trip and a frame-by-frame dissection of the Russian film Stalker, a movie associated with the Chernobyl accident

The USS George H. W. Bush is a nuclear-powered vessel. That was one of the few bits of the ship to which I didn't have access (for understandable reasons) but yes, I should probably have discussed this and quite a few other things as well in the book. There were a wide range of trades on the aircraft carrier--everything from armourers, to cooks and policemen. But if I were press ganged into the navy and I had to follow one profession, it would be as a pilot flying F/A-18s, obviously: at the tip of the spear.

If I had to choose someone as bunkmate for a cruise on the USS George H. W. Bush, I would rather share with five people than one, and would rather share with fifty than five. The key thing is to dilute as much as humanly possible. And I'd much rather share with a woman than a man--not in the hope of some kind of sexual liaison--but because there's something so horrible about sharing with a man.

My work has always been about place, maybe more specifically still in nonfiction works. It's often about how history manifests itself as geography, how the temporal makes itself felt in the spatial. In fiction, the transient tends to be preserved, anchored--lent a kind of permanence--in a place (respectively: Brixton, Paris, Venice and Varanasi).

People seem fascinated by industrial archaeology and places like Chernobyl. There is this attraction and I completely share it. It's partly just a contemporary manifestation of a fascination with ruin and decay going back at least to the romantic age, but also I think it represents the flipside of the constant upgrading of cars, phones, and so on. It's reassuring to see the sites of manufacturing crumble and fall when we're all the time being urged to buy the latest shiny, new things produced in such places. I also think it's satisfying seeing time and nature at work in this way, always ready to make a comeback however ruthlessly we try to contain it. Maybe there's the Larkin thing as well: 'beneath it all desire of oblivion runs.'

'I was constantly surprised by how much people didn't know. That's one of the things about travelling, one of the things you learn: many people in the world, even educated ones, don't know much, and it doesn't actually matter at all.' It's a quote from an earlier book and we actually know less than ever. …

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