Saturday, December 6, 2014

Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

I'm fascinated by odd bits of geography, and had high hopes for this book.  It did have a nice list of interesting places around the world, but on the whole fell a bit flat for a few reasons:

  • Some of the verbiage was way over the top:
What brought the group together was an understanding of urban exploration as a kind of geographical version of surrealist automatic writing. Our real-world adventures were little more than pegs on which to hang our interpretative essays, which usually came with pendulous bibliographies featuring situationists and Magical Marxists.

...

Today the pain and humiliation of subject peoples has been fashioned into a series of sub-Hegelian clich├ęs about respect for “others” and respect for “difference.”

  •  I'd heard of most of the odd places, and while he did add some interesting details about a few, there was nothing in the book that added to my sense of discovering of something new.
  • Some of the selected places were not things I would have thought about as particularly interesting, such as a traffic island near a freeway.  I suppose they're worth contemplating, but - and I apologize for the spoiler - there were no big revelations about traffic islands, and I read that bit as quickly as I could.
The concept was very promising, but the end result was a bit too philosophical for my tastes.  I'd pass on this one.


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