Manual Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey

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One of the last Oxford thoroughfares with a bit of life

Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Isolarion by James Attlee. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Isolarion , please sign up.

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Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Nov 27, John Houghton rated it it was amazing. A beautifully written combination of wandering philosophical treatise and love letter to a special but undervalued place. The conceit is that the author James Attlee is embarking on a pilgrimage up and down his neighbourhood of the Cowley Road, the main Eastern thoroughfare out of Oxford. A place with a long but under-appreciated history, inevitably overshadowed by the glamour of central Oxford. He may travel no further than a short cycle ride away, but over the course of pages in the paperba A beautifully written combination of wandering philosophical treatise and love letter to a special but undervalued place.

He may travel no further than a short cycle ride away, but over the course of pages in the paperback version, Attlee roams across the history and demography of Cowley, the nature of pilgrimage, the meaning of faith in the modern world, the purpose of discovery and its relation to truth, and much more. This is a meditative book, but Attlee's brisk style conveys the reader along. This is certainly not the only book of its kind.

Psychogeography has enjoyed a revival in the past decade or so. Two factors set Isolarion apart from the rest of the genre. The first is Attlee's joy in conversations with people. He is not a passive observer, adopting a deliberately alienated pose. No, he goes out of his way to engage local activist, shopkeepers, and churchgoers, as well as his everyday neighbours.


I found two conversations, both toward the end of the book, particularly moving. One with Margaret, the other with Ruth. I'll deliberately say no more - go read them for yourselves. The second quality is Attlee's willingness to get involved in shaping the future of the Cowley. In contrast to Iain Sinclair's impotent rage about the way London is evolving, Attlee details his attendance at local visioning and planning sessions on the design and layout of the area. That preparedness to get involved, to influence decisions, elevates Isolarion above works that go no further dilettante-ish dalliances with a place.

There are occasional lapses into grumpy old man territory.

Back in the day, students wanted to be Che Guevara, apparently, and now aspire only to be "Ross from Friends, sipping a cappuccino on a sofa in their preppy clothes". Overall, however, Isolarion is a joy to read. It makes you want to explore the Cowley Road or, even better, start a pilgrimage on your own doorstep. As the old saying goes, dig where you stand! Sep 18, Penny rated it really liked it Shelves: travel-england.

Isolarion is a book about Oxford, or more specifically a book about Cowley Road in unfashionable East Oxford. A road he describes as "both unique and nothing special". Attlee has the advantage of living in the area he writes about so his 'pilgrimage' is a series of journeys from his own front door. His visit to a spa w 4. His visit to a spa where he tries out the flotation tank is very funny, and I loved the description of a furtive visit to a Private Shop too where he always seemed to see someone he knew before attempting to slip through the door.

ISBN 13: 9781459605695

I love the way his mind flits from subject to subject as his journey continues. I had no idea that we here in the UK publish so many books that thousands lie waiting for pulping.

However pulping is expensive so unwanted books are now mixed with bitumen and used to make motorways. Apparently we might find the road a bit bumpy if we drive over erotic books!

However, my interest always dipped when he is reporting verbatim some of the conversations he has. Attlee's voice is always far more interesting. He's a wonderful writer! Apr 28, Rob rated it really liked it. Oxford's Cowley Road is without doubt somewhat overstated as a counter cultural enclave and certainly, it's no Prenzlauerberg or Haight-Ashbury.

Attlee, however, does for this humble street what Iain Sinclair does for the footpaths and ley lines of East London and the result is highly satisfying. The author jumps from shop to shop and business to business, emphasizing the small scale, multicultural nature of the locale as well as an alternative history a world away from the Dreaming Spires.

Hence Oxford's Cowley Road is without doubt somewhat overstated as a counter cultural enclave and certainly, it's no Prenzlauerberg or Haight-Ashbury. Hence, chapters on the impact of the Cowley car works and immigration from Pakistan are interspersed with a battle to prevent gentrification in the shape of dubious street furniture and control freakery from do-gooders.

That the street is already three quarters of the way towards being fully upmarket is evidenced by property prices and the disappearance of a number of businesses Attlee describes. Overall, the book is persuasive manifesto for what the Cowley Road and and should continue to be. It's always had its own character. Attlee gives a good sense of that character, and has some enjoyable encounters with the local characters especially the foreign settlers.

He's not all that adventuresome -- it takes him quite a while to dare set foot in the local porn shop, and he doesn't try very hard to get the inside scoop on what goes on in there -- but there are some revealing conversations and quite a few interesting stories. There's some attempt to make this into travel-lit, Attlee trying to make more out of his travel-efforts in mind as well as body than they warrant, but he has an easy, fluid style, and the digressions and connexions are appealing enough.

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Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy is meant to be his accompanying literature, but he only takes that so far as well. An easy-going account, covering a lot of colourful ground, Isolarion gives a good impression of Cowley Road -- and of the pressures on the neighbourhood, and the constant state of flux. It's an enjoyable read, but not that much more; too often one wishes Attlee had pressed ahead further -- as well as perhaps planned his trip or at least account less haphazardly.

The jumble is entertaining, but the picture feels far from whole. Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs. Contents: Main. Isolarion - US. Isolarion - UK. Isolarion - Canada. The NY Times Travel. The Spectator. Sunday Times.