Books

 STATION TO STATION

 

Station to Station is published by Guardian Books and was shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award 2017. The hardback is currently reprinting but the e-book is available for the price of a pint of craft beer by clicking here. For readers on the move, this may be the ideal format…

From the blurb: Part voyage of exploration, part history, part meditation on the nature of travel itself, Station to Station takes the reader on a journey into the psyche of a nation along one of its most iconic lines‘.

REVIEWS:

‘A “window gazer” for our times … Station to Station is the chronicle of a railway journey like no other – part personal odyssey, part history, part architectural guide, part reflection on the nature of travel, part investigation of the national psyche. If it can be categorised at all, here is Paul Theroux crossed with Bradshaw and Betjeman, spiced with a twist of Alain de Botton. Attlee is an extraordinary truffler of facts … No railway junction imaginable could match Attlee’s dazzling range of imaginative connections.’ Michael Williams, Independent

‘Captivating … splendidly stimulating … Attlee is fascinated by the mystical way in which the past concertinas into the present … Station to Station is packed full of fascinating bits and pieces … a wonderfully wide frame of reference … All human life is here, one ghost interweaving with another.’ Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

‘Murderers, politicians, sex parties and dogs: all life is evoked in a magical history of the Great Western Railway …  “God’s Wonderful Railway”, they used to call the link Isambard Kingdom Brunel forged between London and Bristol, and in Attlee’s hands the Great Western Line is indeed full of wonders, prompting passages on everything from infrared technology to resurrection as painted by Stanley Spencer in Cookham … Station to Station is partly an exploration of places and buildings on or just off the line; partly a collection of stories about people who have been associated with it, whether as planners, navvies, staff or passengers; and partly a rumination on the nature of travel.’  ***** Michael Kerr, Telegraph

‘James Attlee’s new book was a must-read for me. As he chugs along this iconic route, Attlee mines fascinating stories from the landscape, rattling off anecdotes about characters as diverse as Oscar Wilde, Diana Dors and T.E. Lawrence – tales that will keep me company on this journey forever more. As well as celebrating the golden age of rail travel, Attlee’s book offers an optimistic view of its role in the future.’ www.worldtravelguide.net

‘Engaging, with echoes in particular of Patrick Wright’s excavations of occult English histories, and of the subversive narratives of Patrick Keiller’s Robinson film travelogues…Take this distinctive book to read on the train and … untangle the stories along your own regular stretch of line’. Simon Bradley, Spectator

Read the full Independent review here. To read Craig Brown’s review in the Mail on Sunday, click here. Simon Bradley reviews in the Spectator here.  Michael Kerr’s review in the Weekend Telegraph is here.

To watch a short trailer for the book, click here

Along with the book, I recorded an album called Orphan Train: to hear tracks or buy the album from iTunes or Amazon, follow links on the Music page of this site.

NOCTURNE: A JOURNEY IN SEARCH OF MOONLIGHT

 

 

For countless millennia mankind lived in step with the cycles of the moon, planting crops, setting out on journeys, wooing lovers and gathering harvests according to its celestial clockwork. It is little more than a century since this connection was decisively broken. Now more and more of us live in realms of perpetual day, in which twenty-four-hour illumination all but obliterates the majesty of the night sky. Nocturne is a journey  in search of what has been lost.

A strange cast of characters accompany the author on his quest: artists, poets, novelists, politicians, astronomers and musicians. Unexpected connections emerge between them, spanning time and nationality. Each has been inspired or troubled at different times by the moon. Its influence and its light resonate through their work and their work in turn plays a part in shaping the course of my journey, reaching beyond the confines of every-day experience into a parallel, moonlit dimension experienced while the rest of the world sleeps.

The search for moonlight leads from the streets of the author’s own neighborhood to a Buddhist temple near Kyoto and into the Arizona desert. The soundtrack to these wanderings is as diverse as their geography. The midnight song of a mockingbird in Brooklyn; the grumbling of a Japanese volcano at a steaming, sacred spring; a Beethoven sonata, bounced off the lunar surface.

Most bizarrely of all, a haunting image of an elderly man standing in front of a map of the moon leads to a solitary prison cell in Berlin.

To order Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight, outside North America, click here. To order inside North America, click here.

REVIEWS

Praise for Nocturne:

‘Nocturne is an inspiration.’ NEW YORK TIMES
‘Remarkably good writing…I know that I am going to keep this book by me for rereading and it seems likely that other readers will want to do the same.’ DIANA ATHILL, Literary Review

For a review of Nocturne in The New York Times Review of Books  click here. For John Banville in the Guardian, follow this link.  The Sunday Telegraph carried a review by poet Adam O’Riordan. Here is the whole review. For the elegantly erudite Brian Dillon in the Irish Times click here…

ISOLARION: A DIFFERENT OXFORD JOURNEY

 

Isolarion is a description of a journey down one particular street in my neighbourhood — a journey through physical space but also a journey through time and through literature.  A voyage by way of digressions. Cowley Road connects the university city to the car factory at Cowley and is the heart of the ‘other’ Oxford you won’t find in the guidebooks. The central question Isolarion poses is: Why travel to the other side of the world when the world has come to you?

Praise for Isolarion:
‘He had me purring from the word go…unique and very special’ GEOFF DYER, Guardian Review

‘A vivid account of daily life, fluid and unsettling…’ ECONOMIST

You can read an extract from the book here. You can read Geoff Dyer’s review in the Guardian here. And here’s a Bookforum review by Rebecca Mead of The New Yorker and one in the Sydney Morning Herald .

To buy the book, click here. If you are ordering from North America, click here.  Isolarion is also available on Kindle.

GORDON MATTA-CLARK

The American artist Gordon Matta-Clark, who died in 1978,  is probably best known for those works in which he sliced through and reconfigured buildings,  using them as his raw material,  transforming them into dizzying walk-through sculptures. These include seminal works such as  Splitting and Conical Intersect. In recent years however, his photo-collages, drawings, films and enigmatic, aphoristic writings have perhaps come to have an even greater influence on successive generations of artists.

I first published on Matta-Clark in 2003: Gordon Matta-Clark: The Space Between, with Lisa Le Feuvre

You can read an article on the book, along with the Phaidon monograph on Matta-Clark edited by Thomas Crow, in Art Forum here.  You can find the book second-hand online.

Otherwise you can read a fully-illustrated paper I wrote entitled Towards Anarchitecture: Matta-Clark and Le Corbusier  for Tate Papers by clicking the link here.

I contributed an essay to the catalogue for the Gordon Matta-Clark retrospective exhibition staged at the SMS Contemporanea in Siena in 2008. You can buy the catalogue here

NORTH SEA: A VISUAL ANTHOLOGY

I wrote the text for this beautiful book of photographs of the North Sea, published by Thames & Hudson in 2017. French (Textuel), Dutch (Hannibal Publishers) and German (Prestel Verlag) editions came out at the same time.

GRAHAM DEAN

 

I wrote the text for this survey of the life and career of British painter Graham Dean in 2016.

 

LIFE WRITING AND SPACE

I contributed a chapter to the collection Life Writing and Space, edited by Eveline Kilian and Hope Wolf (2016). According to an academic reviewer, the collection ‘brings together a mix of established names and up and coming talent who probe the narration of lives through the prism of space. Drawing on work ranging from cultural critics to hardcore (postmodern) theorists and philosophers, this ambitious volume carves out a new territory for scholars and students interested in the intricacies of (auto)biography’.

3 Responses to Books

  1. David Crawford says:

    Super book of course. I like the discussions about wasteful and crappy night lighting, relative to the natural night. I was founder and Exec Dir of International Dark-Sky Association for many years and an astronomer for many more. Now active in efforts in the lighting industry to get better (include none) night lighting, effective and efficient. Would like to quote from your book in some of my writings. Hope you agree.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your comments David. I do think wasteful and misdirected lighting is a big issue. Ironically, a local sports ground has recently erected floodlights that shine into the back of my house, erasing all darkness before 11.00pm. In principle I am fine with the idea of quotes from my book helping the cause… I will email you

      James

  2. Pingback: Writing in Place: An 'Ambient Literature' Project in the UK

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