17 February 2008

Starting point I

Raban 1974 Soft City
Cities, unlike villages and small towns, are plastic by nature. We mold them in our images: they, in their turn, shape us by the resistance they offer when we try to impose our personal form on them. In this sense, it seems to me that living in cities is an art, and we need the vocabulary of art, of style, to describe the peculiar relationship between man and material that exists in the continual creative play of urban living.
(p. 2)

Both the villagers and the media sophisticates watched themselves living; they were all actors, and their performances were subject to a continual critical scrutiny. The studied gesture, the hand cupped around the igniting tip of the cigarette, the flounce of the caftan, the muddy stride across the Green, these were part of a calculated repertoire. To be part of the city, you needed a city style - an economic grammar of identity through which you could project yourself. Clearly this was something to be learned; an expertise, a code with clear conventions. If you could not get the surface right, what hope was there of expressing whatever lay beneath it? ... Some people dealt so finely in its niceties that they li
ved out a kind of vulgar poetry.
(p. 54)

Most of my acquaintances there had no real precedents for the life they were leading; they wanted to be 'in London' without knowing where London really was. And so they conspired to build a metropolis as glamorous, witty and up-to-date as the place they'd imagined as sixth formers in some small town or suburb.
(p. 55)

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