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moving under skies

NYRB Classics collector. Reads anything, so long as it's good. Sometimes historian. Frequently grumpy:  you've been warned. Also at aliceunderskies.tumblr.com. 

The Missing of the Somme

The Missing of the Somme - Geoff Dyer

Let's just acknowledge a few things: 1. Dyer is not an in-depth critic with the ability to thoroughly plumb a concept. 2. Dyer is not a historian. 3. Dyer is always, no matter what, present in his texts, either as an explicit "I" narration forming it all or as an anecdotal presence. None of these things are problems for me. Geoff Dyer's ADD approach to writing--wherein an idea will be tossed out and written about for a sentence or a paragraph--excites me: the quality of those ideas often catch hold of my mind and encourage ongoing rumination even after I've finished the book. In this one, for example, there's an off-hand reference to Britain's failure to attain glory in polar exploration as a society-large preparation for how it viewed the Great War in memorialization: an exaltation of glorious failure. His tactic of using art and literature to explore history worked very well for me in this slim book. Though it is definitely not the read for anyone looking for a blow-by-blow account of WWI, it does not intend to be: this is a consideration of memory, of how British society consciously--even as early as the war's beginning--shaped how it would remember the war. Dyer's use of Wilfred Owens and his interrogation of various war memorials are brilliant. And his personal presence, his family's history in the war and his own travels through the Somme in research for this book, give the study a rich emotional grounding (and also provide some levity in what is, by nature, a devastating subject). This is an excellent companion volume to more traditional histories and I would recommend it to anyone interested in WWI; also, any readers intrigued by concepts of historical memory and how it is formed should definitely seek this out regardless of whether they have an extant interest in the Great War.