Crew members sleep six to a cabin, as a writer Dyer pushes the Navy bureaucrats for his own quarters. He’s self-aware enough to poke fun at his writerly neuroses, though. From his quarters, Dyer makes self-conscious forays calling on everyone from the fighter pilot elite to the empty brig. Dyer is locked in a cell long enough to play captured pirate, al-Qaeda operative and mutinous sailor.
On his hunched travels (tall writer meet cramped carrier), Dyer sees the carrier as an American microcosm; Main Street, USA off the Iranian coast. In a sexless, contactless world, there’s boredom below decks, but terror above as pilots hunt the carrier’s thin, grey airfield swaying in the ocean and rogue components turn technicians to human sashimi.
The carrier is an industrial city. When Dyer leaves, he realises that despite every precaution, oil has permeated his clothes, computers and life. Although Dyer does not, will not fit in with the US Navy’s threefold world of God, firepower and discipline, once he gets back to the beach (Navy-speak for land) he finds the carrier routine has worked deeper than mere oil. ‘I thought of my stateroom and wondered what little story was being told tonight over the Main Circuit before the prayer. How lovely it was to end the day that way... to hear some final and gentle version of the thing that was emphasized throughout the day by anyone and everyone: do better, excel, work to the best of your abilities, for yourself and everyone else.’
ANOTHER GREAT DAY AT SEA: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush by Geoff Dyer, Visual Editions, £25
This review was published in the December 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine