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March 20, 2005

Jonathan Raban

Last December, I came across Jonathan Raban’s soft city in Oxfam. I impulse-bought it, because it played to my fascination with big cities, and with their impact on the imaginations of their inhabitants and visitors.

As I wrote elsewhere, I was torn between admiration for Raban’s erudition and prose style, and irritation at his disdain for non-academics trying to think by themselves. Mostly, I liked it just because there still aren’t enough people writing about cities in the same rose-tinted way they write about nature.

Now I find that Raban is a bit more interesting than the parochial academic I’d pegged him as after Soft City. He’s moved on from London, lived in Seattle for a decade, and written Passage to Juneau, a book about sailing in the Pacific Northwest. From the reviews, it seems he’s trying to do for the sea the same as Soft City did for cities - the book is even subtitled A sea and its meanings. I find that strangely inspiring. I normally avoid books about the sea or the countryside for fear of sentimentality: since I grew up in the country, I’d rather save my sentimentality for the city. But Raban I might make an exception for - if he can write poetically about London, then perhaps he can also write non-romantically about Alaska. It’s easy to be inspired by a book about something you love anyway. I’m wondering whether I’ll manage to be equally inspired by a book about something as alien to me as the sea. So Passage to Juneau goes on the reading list.

March 3, 2005

Bruno does childcare

Bruno is about the best way I’ve found to cheer myself up when I’m down. This sequence (which goes on for about a month) is particularly uplifting and chicken-soup-esque. I’m impressed - there’s a small child involved, and I still loved it.