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Museum Without Walls [Hardcover]

Jonathan Meades
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Sep 2012
'We are surrounded by the greatest of free shows. Places" Jonathan Meades has an obsessive preoccupation with places. He has spent thirty years constructing sixty films, two novels and hundreds of pieces of journalism that explore an extraordinary range of them, from natural landscapes to man-made buildings and 'the gaps between them', drawing attention to what he calls 'the rich oddness of what we take for granted'. This book collects 54 pieces and six film scripts that dissolve the barriers between high and low culture, good and bad taste, deep seriousness and black comedy. Meades delivers 'heavy entertainment' - strong opinions backed up by an astonishing depth of knowledge. To read Meades on places, buildings, politics, or cultural history is an exhilarating workout for the mind. He leaves you better informed, more alert, less gullible. "Everything is fantastical if you stare at it for long enough. Everything is interesting."

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Museum Without Walls + The Jonathan Meades Collection [DVD] + An Encyclopaedia of Myself
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Unbound (13 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908717181
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908717184
  • Product Dimensions: 4 x 16 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'I pick up Jonathan Meades's new collection of essays, Museum Without Walls and I read a paragraph or three. It's the writerly equivalent of standing on the top of Kinder Scout and breathing deeply. The scope of his ideas, the force of his arguments, the sheer vitality of his sentences: these things come at you like negative ions after a storm, with the result that you soon start to feel an awful lot better - envious but revitalised too. - --Rachel Cooke, New Statesman --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jonathan Meades is the author of two novels, 'Pompey' and 'The Fowler Family Business', and two collections of short stories, 'Filthy English' and 'Peter Knows What Dick Likes'. His highly acclaimed topographical and architectural series for the BBC include 'Abroad in Britain', 'Further Abroad' and 'Meades on France'. He lives in Marseille.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As good as his TV utterances 3 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoy Jonathan's rather surreal critical deliveries on TV, and this book is a kind of textual version of the same. It does contain material that I've seen on Channel 4, but I found it an additional treat providing a slightly different view of the presenter himself. At least a passing interest in architecture would appear essential, but most readers will be familiar with at least some of the wide spectrum of places he discusses. If I can be excused for feebly attempting to mimic the style of the writer, then I would describe this book as an orgy of vocabularic excellence.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jonathan Meades first swam into my limited range of sight with a Sunday paper magazine recommendation for the then Monsieur Max in Hampton Hill; he was right on the restaurant money for me and he has led from the front since then in many topics. This handy volume has a shed-load of his essays and scripts assembled in rough order but with a dash of the shack-zone too. You can dip in or read in order (I opted for the latter). It is all opinionated, often rude, typically funny, usually "right" and with a useful edge to helping one view a building again possibly in a different light. There is a little bit of repetition over the years (enough with the corrugated iron already) but nothing to counterbalance the pleasure of a good argument skilfully mounted - even if one does not have a horse in that race. There's a lot of Cobbett's Rural Rides in Meades if with less rudery about Quakers.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Opinionated, pithy and highly intelligent 10 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent polemic pieces about much of what is wrong with our urban/built environment, and by extension our society. Highly readable, although the film scripts are clearly not a substitute for watching the films themselves. There are few people writing with this level of intelligence and insight more's the shame. Any of you thinking you were in the frame for leadership of the Hate Blair and New Labour campaign had better move over and make room.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbound Meades 26 Oct 2012
By Enjaio
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Over the years I had enjoyed the TV programmes of Jonathan Meades so a chance to encounter him on the printed page was not to be missed. With this book of selected essays he does not disappoint. His distinctive tone of voice and phrase sounds yet again clearly in the mind's ear even if he does at times have me reaching for the dictionary. He forces one to see and think and to not accept that the built environment we have around us is necessarily the best in the best of all possible worlds. Nonetheless, he is equally adept at pointing out what is of merit. There is some repetition/overlap with some of the essays, for example the shacks between Bewdley and Bridgnorth. Anyone who celebrates the late Ian Nairn must have his heart in the right place.

If you have only previously encountered Jonathan Meades in his TV programmes and enjoyed them, then this book is well worth reading. If you have not enjoyed the TV programmes then I doubt that you will be converted to seeing the world around us with the help of a "Meades-eye" view.

The publishers 'Unbound' of this book are to be congratulated on bringing back to life funding by subscription.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mordant wit, rich language, trenchant opinions. 11 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Meades is rare and stimulating. Even when a reader may disagree the writing sustains and goes on informing; you may suddenly find that you revise your views. While he might not be the nicest person to sit opposite at dinner he is definitely somebody who should be prominent in our public life. A Meades in parliament would wake 'em all up for sure. I would vote for him as chief planner for buildings. I'd certainly prefer him to be our next King. Until then, I'm going to have to be patient, and wait for the next book. He could write about how best to make a good compost heap and retain my interest.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jonathan Meades, top geezer! 6 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Meades is such an interesting writer both in terms of style and content. He is erudite and funny, keep your dictionary at hand because he will challenge your vocabulary which is an excellent learning process. The only problem I have with this is that some are verbatim from TV programmes so I miss the excellent sounds that usually accompany images.

i have enjoyed all of his stuff (written and on television) so would rcommend you give him a go if you have any interest in the built environment or simply life in general.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pithy, iconoclastic, polemical, verbose.. 10 Jun 2014
By Rough Diamond TOP 1000 REVIEWER
..and, ultimately, the literary equivalent of coriander: pungent, unmistakeable, and completely divisive; you'll either love it or you'll hate it and, even if you love it, and relish it in small quantities, consuming a whole bunch at once can be a fairly nauseating experience.

Museum Without Walls is a huge bunch of Jonathan Meades. 54 pieces of assorted journalism from the past 25 years, interspersed with 6 TV scripts of various vintages. Taken in small doses, it's as bracingly brilliant as any fan of Meades' TV shows would expect. Read it cover to cover, though, and Meades' literary tics start to become tiresome - his stratospheric levels of verbal dexterity (and indignation) can be exhausting for us mortals to keep up with. He's also not above repeating himself, and the same quirky anecdotes and factoids resurface time and again in his prose.

I shouldn't quibble too much, though. For anyone dismayed by the timidity of modern urban planning, disgusted by the moral vacuity of the Blair administration, and exhilarated by the 'poetry in poured concrete' that is brutalist architecture, Meades is a pugnacious, forthright and eloquent ally. He's a unique, sui generis mash-up of Ian Nairn, Francois Rabelais and Luis Buneul and, although he'd probably punch my lights out for saying so, he's a genuine national treasure. Museum Without Walls is as brilliantly flawed as Meades himself, and is a real treat for dedicated Meades-spotters.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Provoke your thoughts with this heroic figure
Meades has been a TV legend for 25 years and his writings make us 'see' the amazing and darn-right stupid of our built world.
Read it and start shouting at the planners.
Published 1 month ago by Revel
5.0 out of 5 stars good
A thoroughly engaging, interesting and funny book. Meades is probably a bit of a pretentious arse but he writes brilliant books
Published 2 months ago by mark fossick
5.0 out of 5 stars Always Fascinating
Provocative, occasionally OTT but always fascinating, JM is one of the most original thinkers on architecture, art, planning and on any number of other topics. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Charlie Fenn
5.0 out of 5 stars museum without walls
have borrowed the book from the library and enjoyed it so now I can read it at leisure- have enjoyed his recent quirky informed style of presentation.
Published 4 months ago by Paul Neilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Another masterpiece
Without question the most entertaining and informative book I have enjoyed for sometime; Meades writes like no other and the reader always walks away enlightened and educated.
Published 4 months ago by Corky
1.0 out of 5 stars Going against the grain
I'm going against the grain of other reviews when I say that Meades would do a whole lot better if he were to write in a more accessible style. Read more
Published 4 months ago by S C Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Meades
Mr. Meades has a view of life that chimes with my own view. He is like a sort of uncle that will send you small pieces of tarmac in the post, each with a label attached describing... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mr Malcolm coghill
5.0 out of 5 stars suffers no fools
Classic Meades- strongly held opinions that are robustly expressed. This is the antidote to all the self-regarding treatises written by architects. Read more
Published 5 months ago by ayup
5.0 out of 5 stars Meades at his glorious best
This is everything you would want from a Meades book. Shortish snippets of wonderful prose, containing all of the Meades trademarks: lists, architectural criticism, brutal forays... Read more
Published 5 months ago by JJM
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book on spaces, places and us human beings.
Read this book, Jonathan Meades writes straight from the hip and makes you laugh at the same time. It's ridiculously cheap, bought it to read on my new Nook.
Published 10 months ago by Jane
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