2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A strange and subtle book,
This review is from: Derelict London (Paperback)
I lived in London once, briefly; I could never get to grips with it. Talking to lifelong Londoners, I realised later that they deal with the city's ungraspable vastness by breaking it up, mentally, into smaller, more intimate localities. Within these, landmark buildings are of great psychological importance. Not the landmarks that the tourist sees; the monuments and great institutions, but the local landmarks of pubs, factory buildings and railway stations. When there is so much rapid change and rebuilding, these take on a deep significance to those who have seen them all their lives. Taken for granted while in use, once they become threatened, they are disproportionately treasured as links to the past, pivotal points in daily journeys.
Somehow the small scale of this book adds to this feeling of intimacy. Here Talling collects a number of buildings which stand empty and decaying. Some are obsolete functional structures of little charm, but others are flamboyant and characterful. Some photos feature no more than ugly patches of rubbish-strewn waste ground. And this is where I miss his point. I do not understand what Talling is focusing on. Is this just a random selection of images? Why does a photo of a rusting Ford Cortina make the grade? Yes, it is an "iconic" car, yet it is hardly relevant here.
When I (rarely) go to the capital these days, I find myself a gawping yokel like those in Thomas Rowlandson's cartoons. It never ceases to astound me, as the train carries me past the rear-end of the London which the pedestrian sees, how, in a city with some of the highest land values on the globe, there remain so many broken down areas and boarded up sites. Of course land use changes, but some sites remain unchanged, gently making the transition from dereliction to archaeology, for decades. If this book had been more thoughtful, with a text which did more to explore the history and context of the buildings, I would have liked it better. As it is, it was tantalising and ultimately unsatisfactory.