Life on a Warship

The sea has inspired innumerable writers. Many of them have spent time at sea – while others have not. What happens when you take a well-known writer and provide him with total immersion at sea – in this case, the U.S. Navy’s newest super-carrier, USS George H. W. Bush? You learn a great deal about writing, about the sea, and about the U.S. Navy.

The British author Geoff Dyer is known for being a genre bender — a writer of novels that sometimes read like nonfiction, and nonfiction that occasionally feels invented — and for being what he calls a gate crasher: someone who writes about whatever happens to interest him at the moment. His newest book, “Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H. W. Bush,” recounts two weeks he spent embedded on an American aircraft carrier, a life for which he was almost comically ill-suited.

To begin with, Mr. Dyer is a beanpole of a man: tall, skinny, unable to walk around below deck except by stooping. He is also, by his own account, a slacker, a whiner, an eater so fussy he couldn’t abide mess hall food, a hater of anything having to do with engines or oil, and someone so bad at sharing that he insisted the Navy give him a private cabin, an almost unheard-of luxury aboard an aircraft carrier. And yet his account of his stay on the ship is mostly blissful, filled with curiosity and with admiration for the crew and the dangerous, difficult work it does: repairing airplanes, flinging them up into the sky and then snagging them when they come back down again.

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