The interview above is in a recent issue of La Repubblica, if anyone reading this happens to be in Italy (translations of Imaginary Cities and European releases are in the pipeline).
Delighted to say my forthcoming book Tidewrack will be published by Vintage/Chattos & Windus in the UK and Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the U.S. If Imaginary Cities was inspired by Calvino, Tidewrack is inspired by Sebald.
PS That’s me, with the ice-pop, at the now-demolished Rossville Flats in the Bogside, Derry – a time and setting that features in the book.
I’ll be appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival this year for those in the vicinity. My event on J.G. Ballard’s ‘High-Rise’ has sold out but there are tickets for my discussion of imaginary and long-lost cities (with James Crawford, author of Fallen Glory) still available here. All welcome.
‘Beyond the utilitarian or commercial, streets become the setting of private and public mythologies. We can walk the meandering Via Dolorosa path in Jerusalem following the steps of Jesus Christ on his way to crucifixion. Every day we might undertake secret pilgrimages to places, unremarkable to anyone else, where childhoods were lived, where love was lost or won: places sanctified by experience. Having these resonances deepens our experience of place just as the place frames our lives; the process gives us belonging and it gives our cities character. “Then came human beings” Camus’ jaded narrator claims in The Fall, “They wanted to cling, but there was nothing to cling to.” He is wrong, as Camus well knows, for there are temporary refuges in the unrelenting flow of time and they exist where space and memory intersect.’
I’ve been writing about street-names for White Noise and I’ve been sharing additional thoughts on the subject in this article in The Guardian.
‘Our visions of the future tell us more about the present than they do the future. The clean open marble piazzas of Renaissance Ideal Cities were dreamt up amidst narrow alleyways and unhygienic squalor. Bruno Taut was dreaming up visions of crystal palaces on top of the Alps, dedicated to universal brotherhood, at the time when millions were living like troglodytes and killing each other in the trenches of the First World War. The age of optimistic futuristic Googie architecture was also the age of “Duck and Cover” and imminent nuclear holocaust. I believe the futurists of today keep producing dazzling visions despite or because subconsciously they know how screwed we actually are. When times are threatening, we dream of utopia. When times are stable, we can indulge ourselves with apocalyptic visions.’
– Discussing cities with P.D. Smith (author of City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age) over at Strange Horizons
Here’s a piece I’ve written a piece on the future of cities for The Guardian.
‘The future will be no different. Change is coming and the water is rising, but the apocalypse will be, as it has always been, continually postponed. We are haunted and fixated by often-outdated images of failed growth: the labyrinth of Kowloon Walled City, the ruin porn of Detroit, the empty skyscrapers of Chinese ghost cities, but we survive to pore over the pictures. Even in the likes of Angkor Wat, Tikal, Nan Madol and the temple of Borobudur, the inhabitants went elsewhere rather than complete oblivion. It is highly likely that, regardless of technological developments or carbon reduction, there will be inundated areas of coastal cities serving as sacrifice zones. Yet even here, if slums are anything to go by, life will struggle on.’
On how cities grow/prosper/collapse/persist for White Noise.
‘It’s true all utopias are dystopias for some, what is Dubai, or indeed Ancient Rome, for a slave but a glittering obscenity? Yet it is equally the case that all dystopias are utopias for a privileged self-appointed few. The real choice we have, which we’ve always had, is not between utopia and dystopia but between competing attempts at utopia. If we don’t try for ours, and there’s no shortage of ideas on what that might be, we’re guaranteed to end up living in someone else’s.’
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed for Forbes (thanks to Kavi Guppta for great questions). Image by Atelier Olschinsky.