Geoff Dyer's latest novel is in fact two long short stories, one set in Venice and one in the Indian city of Varanasi. Each story shares the same protagonist – a middle-aged hack called Jeff, who might, or might not, share much in common with his creator, Geoff.
In the Venice section of the book - a modern riposte to the Thomas Mann novella - we follow Jeff on an assignment to cover the Biennale, as he gets sloshed on Bellinis and meets a female fantasy figure made flesh in the form of Laura, a bendy and biddable American.
In the second half, death rather than sex triumphs, as Jeff prepares to immerse himself in the Ganges. By marrying fiction with travelogue, serious confessional with comedy, Dyer produces a heady literary package.