How Dyer’s people managed to convince the US Navy to allow him a two week writers-in-residence aboard an aircraft carrier off the coast of Iran remains a mystery. The chimera of Dyer’s talent I first peeped in Zona turned out to be nothing but a blotchy oil spill farting and leering at women’s breasts. A faint suspicion was raised in Zona when he claimed threesomes were every man’s dream come true, but the extent of his lechery is hammered home in this book. When he’s not yammering on about how he’s the tallest man on the boat, he’s going gaga over the women on the boat and attempting jokes that fall flat. All (the few) good bits get washed away in the tidal wave of disgust from his overall style.
Dyer has no qualms about showcasing his happy participation in treating women as objects to be drooled over, empty vessels waiting for him to fill them, not taken seriously. When he meets the drug counselor, he worries that she might bang her head on the shelf she’s sitting under when she stands up. As if someone isn’t aware of the boundaries of their own office. Not content to just muse this in his head, he patronizingly cautions her about hitting her head on the shelf when she stands up. After he discovers his crush on the female mechanic, and hears about her marriage and daughter, “looking at her (which I had no desire not to)”. Lovely. Keep it in your pants, sick old man.
Wherein we see Dyer’s own ugly chauvinism, despite him trying desperately to bury it. Hair salon, really?:
Imagine this: you’re sitting in that boring old thing a commercial airliner. You say ‘hi’ to the attractive woman – early thirties, blonde – next to you. When dinner arrives you get talking, ask what she does. She might say she’s in the Navy. Expecting the next answer to be ‘I’m in avionics’ or ‘radar’ – or, if you are thoroughly unreconstructed, ‘I work in the hair salon’ – you ask what exactly she does. Or, in response to that opening question, she might reply, ‘I’m a pilot,’ in which case you follow up with ‘What kind of pilot?’ Either way, assuming she’s in the mood to chat, she will at some point concede the truth: I’m a fighter pilot, flying F-18s, off a carrier.
He can’t leave the boat without one more tongue-drooling incident to prove his idiocy. Here we have incontrovertible proof that women are objects to be looked at, that they do not exist unless seen by men, specifically Dyer, even when grabbing coffee with friends after a yoga class.
The ATO shack was already crowded with people waiting to fly out. Among them was a woman we’d lunched with occasionally, part of the group of young graduates who worked in the reactor. I didn’t recognize her at first. She was wearing jeans and a blue T-shirt with something about Chicago on the front. I could see the shape of her breasts and her bare arms. Her hair was down – she had very long hair. Worried that if I sat anywhere near her I would not be able to keep my eyes off her I sat on the other row, facing away, facing the wall, thinking about what I’d seen and, more tormentingly, what I’d not seen. How effectively her uniform had concealed not just the body but the womanliness within. Even when they were exercising in T-shirts and shorts, I realized now, the women had none of the Lycra allure of gym classes in the city or the supple, quasi-erotic confidence and calm that one notices (without appearing to) when a bunch of women go to a cafe after a yoga session. No, they were just pounding along on the treadmills for all they were worth. The only sexual impulse I’d had – and it wasn’t even remotely sexual, just a diluted form of romantic curiosity – had been concentrated on the woman from the hangar deck with the luminous eyes. And now I was suddenly conscious of that absence, of thoughts and feelings I’d not been having.
This was what was going through my fifty-three-year-old head in the ATO shack. What about the heads of the nineteen- and twenty-year olds who’d been on deployment all these months? Was I the only male here exhibiting – i.e. taking pains not to exhibit – such lecherous thoughts?
Avoid this book.