Saturday, 24 March 2007

Oxford by Jan Morris

Oxford by Jan Morris

This is a profile of a great city, by a most knowledgeable and fluent writer, who is obviously in love with the place. It is crammed full of quirky bits of information, mirroring the style of the town and university. The arrangement is unconventional, but ultimately comprehensive and effective. She covers topics such as ghosts, pictures, literature, empire, war, churches, music, architecture, history, university structure, fauna, flora, industry, politics, religion, food, eccentric characters, societies, science, sport and so on, in a vivid kaleidoscope.

I bought this book in Blackwells, in Oxford, on a visit back to my old university, when I attended a Philip Geddes memorial lecture. Wandering round the central streets, lanes and quadrangles reignited many suppressed memories, and I wanted to read a good description of the city to deepen the understanding of where I had spent three years. An act of typical nostalgia? Certainly this book has deepened my appreciation of the place, and I want to go back again soon.

By the way, Jan Morris is a superb writer, whose trilogy on the British Empire, ‘Pax Britannica’ is well worth reading. You will find the author’s name is James Morris – which was his/her name before undergoing a sex change.

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