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Dark Matters: A Manifesto for the Nocturnal City Paperback – 25 Nov 2016

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About the Author

Nick Dunn is the author of numerous books on architecture, art practices, design processes and urbanism. He is Chair of Urban Design at Imagination, an open and exploratory research lab at Lancaster University where he is also Research Director for the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts and Associate Director of the Institute for Social Futures. He lives and walks in Manchester.

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Amazon.com: 0.0 out of 5 stars 0 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Reclaiming the territory 26 April 2017
By Avery - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm rating this five stars, which I rarely do these days, but you are not guaranteed to like this at all. The book is simultaneously trying to be theory and poetry, at some points literally: it contains both Baudelaire-esque descriptions of decaying urban streets the author has walked down, and a manifesto proclaiming the virtue of subverting neoliberal order through nighttime urban walks, like in Ray Bradbury's short story "The Pedestrian" and his novel "Fahrenheit 451". If this sounds insufferable to you, run away from this book as fast as you can, because you are going to hate it. It is very easy to hate if that's what you want to do. As for me, when I heard about this book I was immediately fascinated, so much so that I took a directionless nighttime walk myself, eventually finding a quiet park where I read it.

The author has the privilege of a lot of free time for walking, reading, and thinking. He doesn't dispute this fact. Instead, he digs into it: can solitary walking be creative and productive? Can he help society escape the seeming inevitability of a downward spiral into neoliberal chaos by stepping outside the urban rush entirely, into a forbidden and dark world? Is nighttime walking the Archimedean lever by which he can jolt the world out of place? Obviously not in a literal sense, but in a poetic sense, I quickly come to agree with him that yes, this is what he is doing, and that he is performing a deep kind of human experiment that demands to be reproduced.

This is a book extremely fit for our times. It reiterates the joys of aimless movement that can be found in earlier books like Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust, but unlike any earlier book that I am aware of, it urges us to consider the political/spiritual possibilities of such behavior that are increasingly being closed off to us in the 21st century. The world of productivity is now always available to us through 24-hour artificial lights and glowing screens, but the Cthulhu who lurks behind all that productivity only becomes visible in the darkness. In an interesting sense, darkness is now harder for us to find than light, and night accordingly has become more important than day for opening up real possibilities of the human spirit.

This is a book about decline, but it is about finding possibility in decline -- not to beautify it, but to discover it as it is through physical examination. It is short and slightly repetitive, but also spellbinding, courageous, disruptive to worn-out values, and very rereadable.
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