Isolarion
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Isolarion : A Different Oxford Journey

3.65 (52 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Through the centuries, people from all walks of life have heard the siren call of a pilgrimage, the lure to journey away from the familiar in search of understanding. But is a pilgrimage even possible these days for city-dwellers enmeshed in the pressures of work and family life? Or is there a way to be a pilgrim without leaving one's life behind? James Attlee answers these questions with Isolarion, a thoughtful, streetwise, and personal account of his own pilgrimage to a place he thought he already knew - the Cowley Road in Oxford, right outside his door. Isolarion takes its title from a type of fifteenth-century map that isolates an area in order to present it in detail, and that's what Attlee, sharp-eyed and armed with tape recorder and notebook, provides for Cowley Road. The former site of a leper hospital, a workhouse, and a medieval well said to have miraculous healing powers, Cowley Road has little to do with the dreaming spires of the tourist's or student's Oxford. What Attlee presents instead is a thoroughly modern, impressively cosmopolitan, and utterly organic collection of shops, restaurants, pubs, and religious establishments teeming with life and reflecting the multicultural makeup of the surrounding neighbourhood. From a sojourn in a sensory-deprivation tank to a furtive visit to an unmarked pornography emporium, Attlee investigates every aspect of the Cowley Road's appealingly eclectic culture, where halal shops jostle with craft jewelers and reggae clubs pulsate alongside quiet churchyards. But the very diversity that is, for Attlee, the essence of Cowley Road's appeal is under attack from well-meaning city planners and predatory developers. His pilgrimage is thus invested with melancholy: will the messy glories of the Cowley Road be lost to creeping homogenization?show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 400 pages
  • 128 x 198 x 24mm | 280g
  • Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • Black Swan
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • map
  • 0552775231
  • 9780552775236
  • 685,914

Review quote

"The attraction, for Attlee, is that the Cowley Road 'is both unique and nothing special'; the resulting book is unique and very special. . . . Residents of East Oxford can be proud to have this eccentric advocate and eloquent explorer in their midst" * Guardian * "A gem...James Attlee's scholarly, reflective and sympathetic journey up the Cowley Road ...blends a vivid account of daily life, fluid and unsettling, in a modern British town with powerful allegorical reflections on the connections between past and present, time and space, and high culture and the hard scrabble world that sustains it" * Economist * "Attlee paints an iridescent picture of a new Oxford that no guide book has yet captured" * New York Times * "Exploring the multicultural and richly layered landscape on his doorstep, he proves that good travel writing is not about where you go, or how you go there, but the way that you look at the world that you pass through" * Sunday Telegraph *show more

About James Attlee

James Attlee works in art publishing in London and is the co-author of Gordon Matta-Clark: The Space Between.show more

Review Text

"The attraction, for Attlee, is that the Cowley Road 'is both unique and nothing special'; the resulting book is unique and very special. . . . Residents of East Oxford can be proud to have this eccentric advocate and eloquent explorer in their midst"show more

Back cover copy

'I have written much about the streets of Oxford myself, but seldom so perceptively or interestingly as Attlee. Anyone who can drag Lucretius, Susanna, Bathsheba and St. Jerome into a Cowley Road porn shop deserves our attention and admiration' Colin Dexter Isolarion takes its title from a type of fifteenth-century map that isolates an area in order to present it in detail - and in that detail finds a greater truth. For James Attlee, that detail is Oxford's Cowley Road, a teeming, multicultural area of commerce, culture and diversity. The former site of a leper hospital, a workhouse and a medieval well said to have miraculous healing powers, it has little to do with the dreaming spires of the tourist or student Oxford. What it presents instead is a thoroughly modern, impressively cosmopolitan, and utterly organic slice of life that reflects the complex, invigorating nature of the twenty-first century city. 'Unique and very special...Residents of East Oxford can be proud to have this eccentric advocate and eloquent traveller in their midst' Guardian 'An iridescent picture of a new Oxford that no guide book has yet captured' New York Timesshow more

Rating details

52 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 12% (6)
4 56% (29)
3 21% (11)
2 10% (5)
1 2% (1)
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