White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World by Geoff Dyer - review by Dominic Green

Dominic Green

World Traveller Plus

White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World


Canongate 233pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Connoisseurs of modern autobiography will recall Freaky Dancin’, the memoirs of Bez from Happy Mondays, especially the scene in which our hero, having taken ecstasy for the first time, experiences his consciousness opening ‘like a tap-it-and-unwrap-it Chocolate Orange’. Here, Bez confirms empirically Wittgenstein’s statement that the limits of language are the limits of the world.

I think of Bez’s enlightenment whenever I taste a slice of Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and also when I get to gorge on a new collection by Geoff Dyer. No sooner does Dyer tap and unwrap some strange experience at one end of the world or the other – the Northern Lights, or Gauguin’s Tahiti – than the whole thing falls apart. The original object of the journey dissolves before his eyes and the narrator’s personality shatters into shards. 

In the title essay, ‘White Sands’, Dyer and his wife spend a day of flippant fun on the bleach-white dunes. ‘The sand is made of gypsum – whatever that is – and is as bright as new-fallen snow.’ His brain is ‘still scorched from the glare’ when, driving in the

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter