Restless Cities book review

From Dickens’s London to the Mumbai of Vikas Swarup’s Q&A, every city is populated by a multitude of human stories

Book review, Time In
Edited by Matthew Beaumont and Gregory Dart

4/5
Verso

From Dickens’s London to the Mumbai of Vikas Swarup’s Q&A, every city is populated by a multitude of human stories. Restless Cities, a collection of essays with oblique, suggestive titles such as ‘Archiving’, ‘Bombing’ and ‘Falling’, explores how the places where most of us live are sites of ‘endless making and unmaking’.

As they collectively trace the evolution of the modern city from the 19th century to today’s huge megalopolises, each of the book’s contributors seeks to rediscover the hidden, the symbolic and the blithely ignored. Geoff Dyer’s hunt for the best doughnut and coffee becomes a study of ‘Inhabiting’, of the tentative way we make a home in the metropolis; by taking the same paths every day, searching out the same breakfast, we ‘avail ourselves of only a fraction of the numerous other opportunities’ while the streets change around us. In contrast, Iain Sinclair’s sardonic ‘Sickening’ explains the panic and politicking that infects our cities when the citizens and/or infrastructures are ailing, whether due to the ‘Mexican slaughter-shed plague, incubated by the media’ or because of some virtual PC virus ‘frisking on the fat of your computer mouse’.

Rather like the city, this is not a book to be encountered in one go, but dipped into. Each contribution offers fresh and piquant observations about aspects of urban living, from the commute to the flowers in a window box.

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