Author(s): Jonathan Raban
With an introduction by Iain Sinclair
In the city we can live deliberately: inventing and renewing ourselves, carving out journeys, creating private spaces. But in the city we are also afraid of being alone, clinging to the structures of daily life to ward off the chaos around us.
How is it that the noisy, jostling, overwhelming metropolis leaves us at once so energized and so fragile? In Soft City, Jonathan Raban, one of our most acclaimed novelists and travel writers seeks to find out. First published in the 1970s, his account is a compelling exploration of urban life: a classic in the literature of the city, more relevant to today's overcrowded planet than ever.
One of the classics of travel writing, this is a prescient exploration of the individual's relationship with urban living
A psychological handbook for urban survival * Sunday Telegraph * A brilliant hymn to urban disorientation and weirdness . . . Reading it on buses I felt I was looking into my fellow passengers' minds, which was creepy, and that I was offering them the means to loook into mine, which was terrifying -- Peter Robins A marvelous picture . . . Soft City shows how, in the midst of physical decay, a city can flourish by fulfilling an elemental need, the need to play out fantasies of self -- Richard Sennett * New York Times * A tour de force -- Jan Morris * Spectator * Raban looks at London with the omnivorous, scandalised relish of Dickens and Mayhew and General Booth -- Frederic Raphael * Sunday Times * The self that confronts the city is chameleon and caddis-worn, changing colour, aggrandizing objects and districts; and it tries on masks, a range of personae through which different styles and attitudes can speak . . . Often, Soft City is Walden in reverse; Raban goes to the city to find himself -- Anthony Thwaite * Encounter * His approach is impressionistic rather than quasi-scientific, but his impressions are sensitive and informed and worth any amount of meaningless statistics and academic jargon -- Richard Freedman * Washington Post * Raban's is the picaresque novelists's eye -- Lionel Brett * London Magazine * A highly intelligent enquiry -- Auberon Waugh * New Statesman * A perceptive and illuminating thesis which draws on acute observations of what makes the city tick, what makes it exciting, what frustrates and what inspires -- Archie McNabb * Architectural Design * An absorbing book -- Angus Wilson * Observer * His metropolis is not the rational, order-imposed "hard" city perceived by the logical mind of town planner or traffic engineer, cartographer or demographer. It is the more elusive but no less real city that oozes out from between the grid lines, smudges and smears the statistics with something messy, irrelevant but impossible to ignore -- Tony Aldous * Times * Soft City is a must -- Paul Fairclough * Time Out (2008) *
Jonathan Raban is the recipient of - among other prizes - the Heinemann Award of the Royal Society of Literature, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Thomas Cook Award, and the Governor's Award of the State of Washington. His novel, Waxwings, was longlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize, and his novel, Surveillance, was published in 2006 to much acclaim. In 1990 Raban, a British citizen, moved from London to Seattle, where he now lives with his daughter.