Brief Interviews is a series in which writers discuss language, literature, and a handful of Proustian personality questions.
Geoff Dyer is the author of a number of books, including Out of Sheer Rage: In the Shadow of D. H. Lawrence, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1997. His latest book, Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush [Pantheon, $24.95], was published this month.
Where do you like to read?
In a business-class seat on a plane.
What did you want to be when you grew up (besides an author)?
What's the best thing about being a writer?
The freedom to play tennis on weekday afternoons.
What are the most important elements of a good story?
No idea. Stories don’t interest me.
What books might your readers be surprised that you enjoy?
Anything to do with Special Forces (Seals, SAS etc) or snipers, but I suspect this will come as no surprise.
What bothers you most about the English language today?
The way that people are always qualifying unique (as in "most unique"). In London, it’s the way that people are swearing all the time.
What's your favorite word? Why?
How did you know? But you're right -- it’s 'why.'
What is your least favorite word?
'Cancelled' or 'delayed,' because I grew up in England where everything is one or the other of these.
If you could have any 5 dinner guests, dead or alive, fictional or non-, who would they be?
D. H. Lawrence, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Don Cherry, Billy Collins, Annie Dillard.
What word or phrase do you overuse?
What is your most prized possession?
A letter by D. H. Lawrence, and a little alarm clock given to me by my mum.
Which books are currently in your to-read pile?
I don’t dare look.
Who are your literary heroes?
John Berger and Annie Dillard.
What is the first book you truly loved?
The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean.
Which classic have you not yet read? Do you intend to read it?
The Brothers Karamazov. I fear it’s too late.
If you could only recommend one book, which would it be?
The Prelude by Wordsworth.
Do you prefer print or e-books?
Do you have a favorite sentence from a book? What is it?
“We must emphasise not the ladder but the common highway, for every man’s ignorance diminishes me, and every man’s skill is a common gain of breath.” From Resources of Hope by Raymond Williams