Publisher:Bloomsbury Pub Ltd
As an Indian born, English educated, American naturalised "global citizen" now living in "suburban Japan", few could be better qualified for travel writing than Pico Iyer: a fact proved by his much praised previous titles Cuba and the Night and Tropical Classical.
Those looking for similarly agreeable reportage in this book will, however, be disappointed. The Global Soul isn't just a travelogue, it's a thesis: a lyrical and skittish dissertation on the way our once wonderfully huge and diverse world, and the humanity therein, is being shrunk, homogenised, and impoverished by mass communication and international capital.
Iyer begins his quest for the troubled "Global Soul" in Los Angeles Airport. Here, in a place that is "half shopping mall, half border crossing" he finds plenty of evidence to support his vision of global anomie: wandering between the sushi bars, cyber cafés, and Irish pubs he sees an ethnically blurred populace whose spaced-out and half-crazed demeanour isn't entirely ascribable to jet lag. From LAX, Iyer proceeds to several other global crossing points: post-Imperial England; racially paranoid Atlanta; wackily Americanised Japan. In each he finds self-doubt, self-consciousness, suspicion; in each he finds a rejection of the past allied to a lack of faith in the future. In each he finds a vague, inchoate unhappiness that belies increasing prosperity.
If there is a problem with this book, it is over-ambition. Iyer's thesis is grandiose, and sometimes one therefore feels the need for a little more evidence than the meandering if effervescent anecdotes adduced here. But this is still a valuable book: timely, intriguing, and important.--Sean Thomas
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