When I first read just the title of this book — THE MISSING OF THE SOMME — I thought perhaps it was an historical novel about World War I, or possibly a linear history of some of the men who had never come home from the fields of battle. Then, reading the Vintage description of Geoff Dyer’s slim volume, I banished those ideas in favor of curiosity about a work that “weaves a network of myth and memory, photos and film, poetry and sculptures, graveyards, and ceremonies that illuminate our understanding of, and relationship to, the Great War.” Did Dyer ably marry these diverse elements and create a memorable contribution to WWI literature?
The main character of this novel, Jeff Attman, is a globe trotting art critic and journalist. But he hates his job, even hates writing, which can pose a problem for a print journalist. He keeps at it because it affords him the opportunity to use an expense account to do what he really loves: drink, take recreational drugs, chase women, drink more, occasionally exercise his rapier wit, use more drugs. You get the idea. He is fun loving and intelligent. He is a kick, the type of guy whose company you would probably enjoy, albeit in limited measures.