'Soft City' is a thrilling, exhilarating read - a perfectly-formed,elegantly-conceived masterpiece of a book. It's still as fresh and apposite today,despite having been written three decades ago, when the author was only 30-ish. Then,as now,it was seen as an original, ground-breaking piece of writing.
Its ten chapters about 'London living' take salmon-leaps of imaginative narrative prose style along the way; its young author's masterly, breathtaking skill fizzing with youth, verve and enthusiasm.
How London ( and possibly the author,too) have changed since 1973/74. It's a glitzier place now. A Class A city - a contender-
up there with Sydney,Tokyo and New York.
Happily, the 'Envies'have long gone, replaced now by crack-cocaine - fuelled muggers. Plus ca change. In the nineteenth century, men wore steel hoops under their starched collars to protect themselves from gangs of garotters. Darker perils await today.
London has survived Thatcherism,Majorism and Blairism, and today's lavishly-talented, hard-working, well-mannered thirty-year-olds, who contribute so much to London life such as my son( gifted artist/award-winning designer/skilled musician/fine lyricist) and his girlfriend have both still managed to hang on to the left-wing visions and ideals of Raban's generation - in the face of massive social and technological change.
London has emerged from the shabby, grubby shadows of its Victorian past, and has now become reconstructed into a glittering, vibrant place, rebuilt and refurbished as in the time of Wren and Nash ( Georgian London's master-planner). How symbolic that Foster's' Millennium' bridge links St.Paul's to Tate Modern ; and how intriguing it would be to read what the inestimable Mr Raban thinks of London in 2003.