it cost me five bucks, and i found it in a bargain bin in a bookshop in blacktown. i also found a peter carey book for another fiver. book bins are fantastic for what you can find in them, in that jumble of paper and spins and big stickers and names of writers that have come and gone in their endless parade of names, bad covers, bad ideas, and good covers, good ideas. and endless string of marching soldiers, falling off the edge into the pulper.
i have finished henri lefebvre's Writing on Cities, and must say that it has proved the most interesting of books so far. full of insightful comments on the city, some which have been seen here, and some which will appear still, like his listing of two prominent points of view about the city. the first being what he calls the 'anti-city tradition'. this is what he says is 'the city as the site of corruption, of hell, babylon.' which is certainly true about many fictions of the city: that dirty scum from the underneath of your fingernail examined x100 on the magnifier. often found in crime fiction, such as chandler, ellroy, and countless other. films like Seven display it too.
the other view is the greek view. the city 'is the place where civilization, culture and art develop.' this is perhaps not as popular as the first, but i can certainly see how it is in play. especially where rural and city meet in that clash of cultures. have beret, will travel, you know?
however, lefebvre also says that the modern city (the current cities that we find ourselves in) is not truly either of these, as it is divided. which i can certainly see.
the other thing of interest that i took from lefebvre, is a way of examining the city. this is called rhythmanalysis, and is something of interest. lefebvre provides an example of this, by setting up on the balcony of (what i believe) is his house to watch the world go by. people chatter and talk and walk in a rhythm, cross streets, traffic, traffic lights, stop and look at the buildings. (most of them in france and thus, i can't commend with any authority on them.) 'rhythms, rhythms,' he writes. 'they reveal and hide, being much more varied than in music or the so-called civil code of successions, relatively simple texts in relation to the city. rhythms: music of the city, a sum. rhythms perceived from the invisible window, pierced into the wall of the facade... but besides the other windows, it too is also within a rhythm which escapes it...
'no camera,' he continues, 'no image or sequence of images can show these rhythms. one needs equally attentive eyes and ears, a head, a memory, a heart. a memory? yes, to grasp this present other than in the immediate, restitute it in its moments, in the movement of various rhythms. the remembrance of other moments and of all the hours is essential, not as a simple reference, but so as not to isolate this present and live it in its diversity made up of subjects and objects, of subjective states and objective figures.'
which i think is a very interesting thing to do and to watch. rhythmanalysis. neat, huh?