I’ve got a bit behind with my reviewing on this site, but had a book review published today in online literary magazine Review 31. I wrote about a new book on urban explorers called Explore Everything: Place Hacking the City by Bradley L. Garrett (Verso Books).
Here’s a quick extract from my article:
At first glance, ‘place hacking’ may seem like just another form of escapist thrill-seeking. Sneak into a construction site, poke around inside Battersea Power Station, run along train tracks to discover abandoned Underground stations. Dodge the security guards and the alarms and the speeding trains, and take trophy photographs of yourself in places you’re not supposed to be.
In an age of heightened governmental security measures and increasing privatisation of public space, however, innocent exploration becomes a radical act. In Explore Everything: Place Hacking the City, anthropologist Bradley L. Garrett explores all the implications, tracing the modern roots of ‘place hacking’ back to Guy Debord and the Situationists in 1950s Paris, who believed in reclaiming the city and freeing people from the passive, consumption-driven roles allotted to them by the ‘Society of the Spectacle’.
To read the full review, click here.
I was also very pleased to see the other day that Charlie over at The Wormhole blog reviewed my first novel On the Holloway Road. One of the bad things about having a new book out this year has been seeing my first book shunted into history, so it makes me happy when someone reads it, and of course even happier when they review it! You can read the review here.
Now, back to dealing with that book review backlog…
There are 8 comments
Beautiful review, Andrew! I loved this sentence from your review – “In an age of heightened governmental security measures and increasing privatisation of public space, however, innocent exploration becomes a radical act”. Very beautifully put and very true.
I liked this insight very much – “the only acceptable modes of behaviour are to work and spend money on pre-packaged “entertainment”. These restrictions are now so ubiquitous that they’re almost unnoticeable to the general population.” It made me think of Erich Fromm’s ‘The Art of Loving’ in which he says something similar.
I loved this comment by Garrett – “It was the first time I’d ever felt that life was as it should be: every day was more exciting than the last”.
I liked very much what you said about searching for the edge – “But the trouble with searching for the edge, as Thompson recognised, is that ‘the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.’”
I also liked very much what you said about many people trying to find their own ways to find freedom in the restrictive global city of today. Garrett insisting on the idea of homelessness as a choice made me remember a movie that I saw sometime back called ‘My Man Godfrey’. In that movie a conversation between a rich woman and a homeless man goes like this 🙂
Rich woman : I don’t like to change the subject, but would you tell me why do you live in a place like this? There’s so many other nice places.
Homeless man : You really want to know?
Rich woman : Oh, I’m very curious.
Homeless man : Because my real estate agent felt the altitude would be good for my asthma.
Thanks for beautiful review, Andrew! I am tempted to read the book.
I loved Charlie’s review of ‘On the Holloway Road’ too. ‘On the Holloway Road’ is still loved by readers as I know reader friends who are reading it or want to read it 🙂
Thanks for reading the review, and for your thoughtful response. That dialogue from My Man Godfrey made me laugh 🙂 And somehow, although it’s apparently a classic, I’d never come across Erich Fromm’s book before, so I’m really happy you mentioned it. Looks like a book I would enjoy.
That’s kind of you to say that about On the Holloway Road too. Glad to know it’s still alive and well! I saw your comment on Charlie’s site, too, and really appreciated it.
Great Review. I want to read this book.
This brings back some memories. I attended collage at a large University (SUNY Stony Brook). The Campus was spread out and was comprised of dozens of buildings. A maze of maintenance tunnels connected the buildings and Underground facilities. These were labyrinth deserted and dark. My friends and I would at times clandestinely enter and explore them. Of course access was forbidden and illegal. I think we did this for reasons that you allude to in your review. Once, when I was not present, several of my friends were caught by campus police. They actually talked themselves out of getting arrested.
Hey Brian, I hope you do read this book – sounds as if you would enjoy it. There is something alluring about those forbidden spaces, and I can see why you would want to explore those labyrinthine maintenance tunnels. In an urban environment, so many of our entertainment options are packaged up for us, and even things that were once “edgy” quickly become sanitised as consumer experiences, so there is an attraction in doing something without official approval. Now I can say I know a real-life urban explorer 🙂
I can imagine a second book is a double-edged sword. Even just as a reader you get worried that you’ve missed the boat on some books. Explore Everything sounds quite a book, heavy going maybe but with a lot of information (ironically?) I like the site, looks a good read in general.
Yes, it is a double-edged sword. Wouldn’t change it, of course – I’m happy and lucky to have two books published! But it’s inevitable that earlier works sink beneath the weight of later releases. At least until the day I win the Booker Prize and people start reading through my backlist 🙂
Review 31 is a good site – really like the mix of intelligent reviews, news, interviews, etc. I’ve been reading it for a while and would recommend it.
I was looking for a London-on-the-cheap book for my son, now he’s gone to university at UCL, but hmm, maybe not this one! I don’t want to encourage him to more thrill-seeking than is seemly….. 😉
Yes, I can see the dilemma. The upside is he’ll think you’re the coolest parent ever; the downside is he may get arrested. Maybe a TimeOut subscription would be safer 😉