Geoff Dyer announced recently that he wasn't 'very interested in character and not remotely interested in story or plot'. For someone who writes novels (I hesitate to use the word 'novelist'), this is a striking admission. Dyer, who was born in 1958, has so far written three. His first, The Colour of Memory (1989), is set in Brixton during the 1980s, and records the shambolic lives of a group of aspiring artists: a writer named Freddie, a painter called Steranko and an unnamed narrator, who is fired from his job at the start of the novel. 'It was as though getting a job was a temporary illness from which I had now recovered,' he says. The trio come into contact with a wider fraternity of creative types, most of whom have similarly relaxed attitudes to professional advancement. Afternoons are spent in the pub, or sunbathing on the communal roof terrace above the narrator's flat. Structurally, the novel takes its cue from the free-wheeling, haphazard lifestyle it depicts. There are lots of enjoyable scenes involving different combinations of the same people, but little by way of plot development. The characters, too, are thinly drawn: although we get a sense of how they behave socially, their backgrounds and feelings are never revealed.
LRB 25 September 2003 | PDF Download