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Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey Paperback – 26 Feb 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (26 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552775231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552775236
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 164,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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)

Book Description

An offbeat, rich and reflective investigation of Oxford's Cowley Road

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. Harris TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 April 2007
Format: Hardcover
From time to time one sees a book of a type for which there is no convenient classification. This is an example, a "place" book but not a "travel" book. In it, James Attlee explores Cowley Road in Oxford - a part of the city that visitors don't usually reach, but a vibrant and interesting one.

In a journey along and around the road, Attlee muses on the past, present and future, what has changed and what continues, while engaged with other residents in a struggle to stop proposed improvements from spreading blandness along it.

This is an excellent read, a book that made me, an occasional traveller along Cowley Road, consider my own response to it. It embodies a very clear sense of place. Overall, the sort of book one regrets coming to the end of.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gross on 28 Feb 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Cowley Road area, aka East Oxford is Oxford's hotspot of cultural diversity, with migrants from almost every nation in the UN, and a diversity of shops to match. James Attlee, who lives in the area but works in London, so retains a somewhat detached perspective while being able to immerse himself, has recorded his impressions, experiences, and even hesitant attempts at involvement with local politics, under the leitmotiv of a "pilgrimage." His travel doesn't have to take him out into the world, he argues, as the world has come to the area where he happens to live.

The first of three parts is dominated by his reports, travel-writing style, of experiences he has sampled along the road - ranging from the Brazilian art gallery to the new-agey immersion pool. In the second and third part, musings on history, philosophy, religion take over, making the whole, as the author admits on the last page "as much an allegorical as a physical journey."

This is all quite fascinating for us who live less than a kilometre upstream from the start of Cowley Road, but seeing that the book was published by the University of Chicago Press, one does wonder what readers in Chicago may make of it. Even for us who know the territory, a map would have helped.

I'm sure the book is exactly as the author needed to write it in order to make sense of his experiences relating to the area where he lives. Personally, I might have liked it even more if he had been more of an explorer and less of a pilgrim. An explorer might have sampled all the diverse experiences on offer on the Cowley Road, from the mundane to the wildly exotic, a bit more systematically, maybe charting the course of the road completely, rather than escaping into philosophical asides.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wallace on 15 Nov 2009
Format: Hardcover
The idea is brilliant - "Why go and see the world when it has come to you" - in other words see the world by looking at your local high street - in this case in Oxford

One of the best books I've reads in the last 10 years
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