Friday 15 July 2016

Imaginary Cities

(July 2016)

Magisterial, I believe is the word.

Imaginary Cities is a stupendous work of psychogeography—an almost irredeemably wanky word for an endlessly fascinating subject. In showing us a recognizable but altered and reinterpreted view of Paris, that wonderful cover gives you some idea of what you’re in for, because what we are concerned with here is the city in all its forms, both real and imagined. Over almost 600 pages Anderson somehow manages to encompass it all. He organizes his sections into broad themes—light, waste, chemisty, absence—and within each drills down on a few examples plundered from fiction, fact, and all that is in between. This, I realize, makes it sound incredibly dull, but the amount of learning and erudition compressed into every page, paragraph, and sentence is awe inspiring, and is combined with a crystal sharp eye for the absurdities of the world we purportedly live in today. Chapters such as ‘The Sun King’ would be worth buying the book for by themselves, and it is full of such wonders. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

As such, it’s a fitting way to round out Arbitrary Theme Month here on this is how she fight start (though it would seem the ‘arbitrary’ aspect applies more to the timescale then the theme by this point). Having spent almost half a year reading about cities in all their forms, what have I learned? Well, on the one hand I’ve learned that it’s actually quite liberating not to have to worry about what to read next, to just have a pile you need to work your way down, however random and self-imposed that pile may be. But that’s not really how I should answer that question.

I should, I suppose, say something profound about cities and our places within them as humans and their places within us as humanity. But I’m not really sure what that should be. As perhaps the defining human construct (in both concrete and abstract senses of the word), our cities are us, with all the positives and negatives we entail, They are us magnified to the nth power and as such (and fortuitously, given by present lack of inspiration) defy easy categorization and glib summary. Here, have a cheesy youtube clip instead:

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