Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A (short) Tale of Two (books on) Cities

David Pinder's Visions of the City and Jonathan Raban's Soft City

David Pinder's Visions of the City (2005) takes a primarily Situationist look at the city and discusses détournement, the dérive and their cartography in depth. Preferring the Situationists' approach to the Surrealists' he states: "The dérive placed more emphasis on a conscious analytic subject, investigating and contesting terrain." (2005: 3) Pinder believes that the maps produced by Debord, and the performative acts behind them, go towards altering conceptions of the city and the lived experience therein. (2005: 159)

Jonathan Raban also discusses the individual's response to living in the city in Soft City (1974). He begins by explaining that the city, your own city, has a language that speaks to you and that your recognise: "the language you've always known, the language from which being you, being me, are inseparable." (1998: 3) Raban's poetic prose on the city - describing a flexible space that can be bent to our will - views the city as malleable, encouraging fluid identities in its citizens. In not seeing the city as being full of 'evils' that can create an alienating effect, Raban prefers to show us aspects that we can use and mould for our individual purposes:
For at moments like this, the city goes soft; it awaits the imprint of an identity. For better or worse, it invites you to remake it, to consolidate it into a shape you can live in. You, too. Decide who you are, and the city will again assume a fixed form around you. (ibid.)

Pinder, David. 2005. Visions of the City: Utopianism, Power and Politics in Twnetieth-Century Urbanism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd).
Raban, Jonathan. 1998. Soft City (London: The Harvill Press).

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