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Tunnel Visions: Journeys of an Underground Philosopher Paperback – 4 Feb 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (4 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841155675
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841155678
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1.3 x 31 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 660,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Itinerant philosopher Christopher Ross' debut book Tunnel Visions--a deftly observant sideways glance at human nature when in transit or, more often, not--sprung from 16 months working as a Station Assistant for London Underground. Or Platform 6, northbound Victoria Line, at Oxford Circus station, to be precise. A series of notes from the Underground, it provides a placatory centre of calm and rationale in our increasingly eddying lives as Ross, previously a corporate lawyer, oriental carpet smuggler and Japanese soap actor, takes the McJob to find a personal space in which to ruminate. After the surreal procedures of the training school, he is allocated his own patch, of which he grows quickly proprietorial. In a collection of precise tableaux, he neither leans upon nor ignores the inevitable anecdotal luggage that accumulates, but relates it with philosophical detachment and, when necessary, an engaged moral probity. He observes the archetypal gaits of his commuters, sings harmonies with a busking act, witnesses the spit and polish applied for a visit by John Prescott, and a man emerge from a train tunnel after being told at the previous station that it would be quicker to walk. Green grapes, he learns, are more deadly than banana skins, though not as lethal as suicidal "one-unders" (or "track pizza", in unforgiving New York parlance). A captured mosquito turns out to be unknown in Britain, an ugly, beswaddled baby turns out to be a monkey, and a dog on a lead a domesticated fox. Nothing is what it seems, but only if you look.

Like the best travel literature, Tunnel Visions chooses internal rather than external landscapes, and describes them with a steady calm eye. From the autopilot of the Victoria Line trains to the sheep-like, but never sheepish, autopilot of his gaggles of passengers, the wisdom, and man-hours, Ross invests in this woefully under-resourced utility rewards with the best view from the other side of the Tube tracks since John Wain's novel The Smaller Sky, now sadly out-of-print. In the end the pessimism ground Ross down, but the Oxford Circus' loss was literature's gain, with this terrific, humane, utterly original legacy.--David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

‘This is one of the most original and surprising books that I have read for years: a reflection on city life by an unusual mind that proves just how extraordinary the ordinary can be.’ Christopher Matthew, Daily Mail (Critics Choice)

‘Ross has produced a truly brilliant book.’ Gary Younge, Guardian

‘Very funny…a parable of our times.’ Iain Sinclair, Daily Telegraph

‘…this unique, utterly original little philosophical tome. This is pop philosophy in its best sense: a kind of subterranean “Sophie’s World”, but more adult, darker-edged, its modest wisdom harder won.’ Literary Review

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In the bleakest days of winter I sit in my house staring out at the overcast greyness, feeling sorry for myself. But after reading Christopher Ross' first book Tunnel Visions, I'll never complain again. I thought I had it bad. But imagine a job which comes with a cheap polyester uniform and a pair of Doc Marten boots, where the biggest thrill is skiving off all day in a broom cupboard. It's a job in which your colleagues get jealous when someone commits suicide right in front of you, as it would ensure them paid leave for counselling. You never even see the darkest winter sky, as you're 200 feet underground, in a vile crowded tunnel, which stinks of bad air. Worse still, the place is filled with bitter, angry people who you're supposed to help out.
Such a place does exist. It's called The London Underground, and the job is a SA - Station Assistant. Even after reading his book, I'm still not quite sure what drove Ross underground. He had been a high flying lawyer, a traveller, a fine rug dealer in the Middle East. He'd even studied an ancient style of sword fighting in Japan. In the opening pages Ross explains that he needed a job which would give him a lot of time to think. Most of us would get rid of the TV or start going for long walks, but an underground philosopher requires far more challenging surroundings.
After learning how to cross a live rail safely, and to always look an abusive member of the public right in the eye, Ross found himself on platform 6 of 'Oxo' (Underground slang for Oxford Circus). The diary of his time spent pacing up and down the 200 feet of concrete, thinking, makes for one of the strangest works of philosophical travel imaginable.
It is a book packed with odds and ends of thought, and gems of peculiar information.
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By A Customer on 14 April 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was blown away by this book. A review I read said it was like Zen & the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance, only better. It is - both better and like that book because it deals with philosophy which is lived and tested and found to be true. I read philosophy at university and have been able to spot some of the hidden echoes in the text. Frequently what seems like an ordinary passage turns out on re-reading to be deeply profound. It's hard to explain how he has done this. Destined to be a classic.
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By A Customer on 9 Aug. 2001
Format: Hardcover
I knew the author of this book slightly over 15 years ago when he was a tax lawyer. I attended a lecture he gave and concluded, as did several colleagues, that he had one of the most brilliant legal analytical minds I had ever encountered. I was, therefore, intrigued at his new incarnation as writer and philosopher. I found this book atonishingly good and artful in the extreme in the way it uses such simple language to nail philosophies of science and ideas while narrating the frame story of a mundane job on the London Underground - clearly a structural device for the human sub-conscious. A great book by a dazzling mind I believed had disappeared.
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By A Customer on 8 July 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is written in oddly simply language and has the feel of prose poetry in one or two sections. I would guess the author is holding back or has polished his text until it seems effortless - but is in fact a demonstraion of a highly subtle mastery of how to express complex ideas simply.
On the face of it this is a book about a menial job, working on the London Underground. But really it is a summation of the hollowness of our lives in large cities and the trivial concerns of contemporary society - televison, sport, spin politics etc.It is also a blueprint for a more serious and rewarding approach to life.
I found this book resonated long after I had put it down and believe it may well be a masterpiece. What will he do next? I for one cannot wait.
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Format: Hardcover
When I read Tunnel Visions, I literally couldn't put it down. It is a book that works effortlessly on many different levels and has a lot to offer anyone. It is extremely well written, very funny, definitely interesting (regardless of your knowledge of the underground) and above all thought provoking. I both thoroughly enjoyed this book and learnt a lot from it. I cannot recommend it highly enough. One of my favourite quotes is from Oscar Wilde: "We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars." What Christopher Ross has written is not only one of those stars, but one of the brightest. A must-read book.
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By A Customer on 15 April 2001
Format: Hardcover
I simply can't understand how anyone might think this book is a disappointment. I couldn't put it down. It is moving, funny, and Christopher Ross is clearly a very interesting - if slightly eccentric - man who appears to see things in a fresh and distinct way. So different from the usual "philosophy" books which merely rehash old ideas we've heard a million times round the dinner table. We want more books like this please. And if he's ever in Cornwall he's more than welcome to come and share his insights with us down here. We may not have an Underground, but his ideas are just as relevant for us as they are for Londoners.
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By A Customer on 28 Jun. 2001
Format: Hardcover
Three friends of mine who don't know each other recommended this book to me in the space of a week. Then it turned out my father was raving about it. I had to read it and see what all the fuss is about. I bought it in the afternoon and went to bed at 2.00am having read the last page. One of the funniest, profoundly written and original books I have ever read. Can't say I am interested in the Tube - but its not about the Tube, but about life as a journey. I feel better equipped to journey on and hope he has more in store for us in further books.
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