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The Colour of Memory [Paperback]

Geoff Dyer
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 6 2003
'In the race to be first in describing the lost generation of the 1980s, Geoff Dyer in THE COLOUR OF MEMORY leads past the winning post. "We're not lost" one of his hero's friend's says, "we're virtually extinct". It is a small world in Brixton that Dyer commemorates, of council flat and instant wasteland, of living on the dole and the scrounge, of mugging, which is merely begging by force, and of listening to Callas and Coltrane. It is the nostalgia of the DHSS Bohemians, the children of unsocial security, in an urban landscape of debris and wreckage. Not since Colin MacInnes's CITY OF SPADES and ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS thirty years ago has a novel stuck a flick-knife so accurately into the young and marginal city. A low-keyed style and laconic wit touch up THE COLOUR OF MEMORY' THE TIMES

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Review

'Of all the hyped novels about 1980s London it remains one of the most genuine' Peter Jukes, NEW STATESMAN *'Captures the vigour and life of Brixton ... there are vivid tableux of street life, shot through a compassionate lens ... sustained and powerful' SUNDAY TIMES * 'Dyer writes crisp Martin Amis-inflected prose, full of acute and neat phrases' TLS

About the Author

Author of 3 novels, a study of John Berger & 4 genre-defying titles including But Beautiful, which won the Somerset Maugham Prize and the most recent Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It. His book of essays, Anglo-English Attitudes, was also critically acclaimed.

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovingly Constructed Sept. 10 2001
Format:Paperback
Geoff Dyer's first novel begins like a first novel and develops into an accomplished work in its own right as the story progresses. The reader follows a small clique of twenty-somethings in the bohemian London enclave of Brixton. The novel is not plot-based, but is instead intended to paint a picture of a particular place at a particular time while encouraging the reader to see his or her own life reflected.
I had a few minor complaints: the introduction of the characters at the beginning is a little awkward and seemed forced. When Dyer waxes prolific, making statements about the "Lost Generation," his writing takes on the cynical self-indulgence of Martin Amis which seems out of place with characters who are warm, likable people.
But once past all of this, and it doesn't take long, the book segues into a series of loving vignettes, carefully crafted and simultaneously personal and universal in character. We all remember pieces of events and it is the details that make memories vivid and important to us. Geoff Dyer captures this in writing that is wispy and urban at the same time.
One can see his future writing ("Out of Sheer Rage" and "Paris Trance") foreshadowed in much of this and although I recommend starting with those two, in that order, any fan of Dyer's style will fall in love with this novel as well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What Remains of our Hopes: Colour of Memory Aug. 20 2000
Format:Paperback
Geoff Dyer's The Colour Of Memory is an amazingly well-written first novel novel, perhaps more so for how it is written than for what actually takes place on the pages-more about this a bit later. The narrator of Colour Of Memory, plus five or six close friends are all young, university-educated and living a near-impoverished existence in a series of barely inhabitable South London, Council flats.
In Colour Of Memory, Dyer describes in beautifully vivid detail a series of intimate snapshots of life lived day to day on the margins of Thatcher's Britain in the mid-1980's. The novel begins with a kind of lost generation, Hemingway-esque line: "In August it rained all the time-heavy, corrosive rain from which only nettles and rusty metal derived refreshment". From this line onward, the tone is set with the narrator losing his low-paying, unengaging, government-sponsored job as well as being evicted from his Brixton apatment. Narrator and friends are all portrayed by the author with a wistful, near-biographical approach. Discussing the Darwinist, capitalist landscape of Tory-dominated Britain, listening to Maria Callas on a cloudy afternoon, arguing the merits of John Coltrane's sixties-era recordings, smoking strong dope on the roof of the narrator's flat, attending parties in dangerous neighborhoods and just scraping by while trying to nurture their separate, artistic ambitions. Without question, the characters of Colour Of Memory, narrator included, are all 1980's beatniks of one kind or another and the novel makes clear how quixotic a life this really is- living in a society and an atmosphere that values financial prowess and ordinary survival skills over creativity of any variety.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Other View May 4 2000
By Le Noir
Format:Paperback
What can you say of a book that starts with the line - "In August, it rained all the time."? Literary connotations of rain, as in Hemingway's 'A Farewell to Arms' immediately come to mind. It is safe to assume that Dyer is well aware of the build-up he is creating - indeed he draws on Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) later in his book when one of his characters says "We are all a lost generation".
Within the first few pages after this remarkable line, the protagonist is thrown out of his 'rented' house, loses his job, and soon has his car stolen. In other words he is set up for re-entering the 'other life'. Through him, Dyer leads us into the 'other world', the 'other view' of life.
In a high-pitched discussion at a drunk party, one of his main characters, Steranko, makes a crisp speech about how he is involved in some of the most important political work of his time- "I don't eat at McDonalds.., I don't see [s**t] films, if someone is reading a tabloid-I try to make sure that I don't see it.., when people talk of house prices, I don't listen...!". This aversion to mass activities and interests is the underlying theme of the book.
The small group of friends that 'rides together' in Brixton is in a world of its own. They think their own thoughts, discuss the most important and most trivial issues of life amongst themselves,and play their own invented card games. Their perspective on life, though impractical at times, is fresh and often throws insights into life that 'normal' people 'who buy houses' miss.
Dyer's excellence at his craft keeps the book rolling at a perfect pace without any overt plot, moving from one snapshot of the city's life in the 1980s to another.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Remains of our Hopes: Colour of Memory Aug. 20 2000
By Eric J. Steger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Geoff Dyer's The Colour Of Memory is an amazingly well-written first novel novel, perhaps more so for how it is written than for what actually takes place on the pages-more about this a bit later. The narrator of Colour Of Memory, plus five or six close friends are all young, university-educated and living a near-impoverished existence in a series of barely inhabitable South London, Council flats.
In Colour Of Memory, Dyer describes in beautifully vivid detail a series of intimate snapshots of life lived day to day on the margins of Thatcher's Britain in the mid-1980's. The novel begins with a kind of lost generation, Hemingway-esque line: "In August it rained all the time-heavy, corrosive rain from which only nettles and rusty metal derived refreshment". From this line onward, the tone is set with the narrator losing his low-paying, unengaging, government-sponsored job as well as being evicted from his Brixton apatment. Narrator and friends are all portrayed by the author with a wistful, near-biographical approach. Discussing the Darwinist, capitalist landscape of Tory-dominated Britain, listening to Maria Callas on a cloudy afternoon, arguing the merits of John Coltrane's sixties-era recordings, smoking strong dope on the roof of the narrator's flat, attending parties in dangerous neighborhoods and just scraping by while trying to nurture their separate, artistic ambitions. Without question, the characters of Colour Of Memory, narrator included, are all 1980's beatniks of one kind or another and the novel makes clear how quixotic a life this really is- living in a society and an atmosphere that values financial prowess and ordinary survival skills over creativity of any variety.
What takes place on the pages of Colour Of Memory is seemingly woven together with an invisible thread; there appears to be no obvious plot, rhyme or reason to the action. Yet, the reader is propelled forward through one shimmering vignette after another. One can't articulate why, one just seems to feel some connection to these people and therefore cares about what comes next, no matter the order of happenings. Colour Of Memory could be seen as self-indulgent and a tad mundane, but fortunately for the reader it easily escapes this fate by presenting itself as a compelling group of beautifully written recollections, sometimes sad, usually funny and certainly tracing the beginning of a great writer. Maybe Dyer summarized this novel before it even began with a quote from John Berger, probably his biggest influence: " What remains of our hopes is a long despair which will engender them again".
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Other View May 4 2000
By Le Noir - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What can you say of a book that starts with the line - "In August, it rained all the time."? Literary connotations of rain, as in Hemingway's 'A Farewell to Arms' immediately come to mind. It is safe to assume that Dyer is well aware of the build-up he is creating - indeed he draws on Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) later in his book when one of his characters says "We are all a lost generation".
Within the first few pages after this remarkable line, the protagonist is thrown out of his 'rented' house, loses his job, and soon has his car stolen. In other words he is set up for re-entering the 'other life'. Through him, Dyer leads us into the 'other world', the 'other view' of life.
In a high-pitched discussion at a drunk party, one of his main characters, Steranko, makes a crisp speech about how he is involved in some of the most important political work of his time- "I don't eat at McDonalds.., I don't see [s**t] films, if someone is reading a tabloid-I try to make sure that I don't see it.., when people talk of house prices, I don't listen...!". This aversion to mass activities and interests is the underlying theme of the book.
The small group of friends that 'rides together' in Brixton is in a world of its own. They think their own thoughts, discuss the most important and most trivial issues of life amongst themselves,and play their own invented card games. Their perspective on life, though impractical at times, is fresh and often throws insights into life that 'normal' people 'who buy houses' miss.
Dyer's excellence at his craft keeps the book rolling at a perfect pace without any overt plot, moving from one snapshot of the city's life in the 1980s to another. The structure of the book is itself a rebellion against conventional forms of the novel. As Freddie, the wannabe author says about his own book "Oh no, there's no plot. Plots are what get people killed."! Maybe not as challenging as James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake", but certainly a refreshing way to look at the concept and structure of a novel.
In many ways, the rebellion of his characters and their unacceptance of conventional wisdom, is reminiscent of J.D.Salinger's Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye). The issues change, the age group and geography is different, but the cynicism with which the protaganists in each book regard accepted human occupations is similar.
There is a need to run away from it all. The book actually culminates with the break up of the group which starts with Freddie's sudden decision to leave the country.
In all a wonderful, painful book, that lets you in to life on the other side. A book to hold when you remember similar phases in your life, or are going through one. A book that raises several important questions, and probes us to think of answers.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The other view May 2 2000
By Le Noir - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
What can you say of a book that starts with the line - "In August, it rained all the time."?
Literary connotations of rain, as in Hemingway's 'A Farewell to Arms' immediately come to mind. It is safe to assume that Dyer is well aware of the build-up he is creating - indeed he draws on Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) later in his book when one of his characters says "We are all a lost generation".
Within the first few pages after this remarkable line, the protagonist is thrown out of his 'rented' house, loses his job, and soon has his car stolen. In other words he is set up for re-entering the 'other life'. Through him, Dyer leads us into the 'other world', the 'other view' of life.
In a high-pitched discussion at a drunk party, one of his main characters, Steranko, makes a crisp speech about how he is involved in some of the most important political work of his time- "I don't eat at McDonalds.., I don't see [s**t] films, if someone is reading a tabloid-I try to make sure that I don't see it.., when people talk of house prices, I don't listen...!". This aversion to mass activities and interests is the underlying theme of the book.
The small group of friends that 'rides together' in Brixton is in a world of its own. They think their own thoughts, discuss the most important and most trivial issues of life amongst themselves,and play their own invented card games. Their perspective on life, though impractical at times, is fresh and often throws insights into life that 'normal' people 'who buy houses' miss.
Dyer's excellence at his craft keeps the book rolling at a perfect pace without any overt plot, moving from one snapshot of the city's life in the 1980s to another. The structure of the book is itself a rebellion against conventional forms of the novel. As Freddie, the wannabe author says about his own book "Oh no, there's no plot. Plots are what get people killed."! Maybe not as challenging as James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake", but certainly a refreshing way to look at the concept and structure of a novel.
In many ways, the rebellion of his characters and their unacceptance of conventional wisdom, is reminiscent of J.D.Salinger's Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye). The issues change, the age group and geography is different, but the cynicism with which the protaganists in each book ragard accepted human occupations is similar.
There is a need to run away from it all. The book actually culminates with the break up of the group which starts with Freddie's sudden decision to leave the country.
In all a wonderful, painful book, that lets you in to life on the other side. A book to hold when you remember similar phases in your life, or are going through one. A book that raises several important questions, and probes us to think of answers.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovingly Constructed Sept. 10 2001
By E. Filson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Geoff Dyer's first novel begins like a first novel and develops into an accomplished work in its own right as the story progresses. The reader follows a small clique of twenty-somethings in the bohemian London enclave of Brixton. The novel is not plot-based, but is instead intended to paint a picture of a particular place at a particular time while encouraging the reader to see his or her own life reflected.
I had a few minor complaints: the introduction of the characters at the beginning is a little awkward and seemed forced. When Dyer waxes prolific, making statements about the "Lost Generation," his writing takes on the cynical self-indulgence of Martin Amis which seems out of place with characters who are warm, likable people.
But once past all of this, and it doesn't take long, the book segues into a series of loving vignettes, carefully crafted and simultaneously personal and universal in character. We all remember pieces of events and it is the details that make memories vivid and important to us. Geoff Dyer captures this in writing that is wispy and urban at the same time.
One can see his future writing ("Out of Sheer Rage" and "Paris Trance") foreshadowed in much of this and although I recommend starting with those two, in that order, any fan of Dyer's style will fall in love with this novel as well.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He nails the Thatcher years -- thoroughly engrossing! July 15 2014
By Charles Hargreaves - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I confess at first that the reason I read this book is that I lived in the same area of London during the same period the book covers. I can say he nails the feel and atmosphere of that part of England's history -- the Thatcher years, the Brixton riots, the melancholy of the under-employed. Occasionally he throws in a paragraph or two that mark him as a young writer at the time, sometimes a bit too precious -- but I could forgive him that, and generally I thoroughly enjoyed this book -- read it over just a few days between work and child. Not for everyone, but a wonderful trip for this writer.
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