Andy Merrifield, What We Talk About When We Talk About Cities (And Love) – out in June from OR books.
Update: an excerpt is now available open access: Between Utopia and Dystopia: Encountering Marshall Berman and Mike Davis
In often dreamlike peregrinations around his home towns of Liverpool, London and New York Andy Merrifield reflects on what cities mean to us and how they shape the way we think. As he wanders, Merrifield’s reveries circle questions: Can we talk about cities in the absolute, discovering their essence beneath the particulars? Is it possible truly to love or hate a city, to experience it carnally or viscerally? Might we find true love in the city?
Merrifield does find love in the city: with his future wife, whom he takes on a date to see his hero Spalding Gray’s “It’s a Slippery Slope” at London’s South Bank and soon after moves in with, to a tiny place in Bloomsbury where they celebrate the brilliance of new romance by painting the walls turquoise and gold. And for the fellow urbanist Marshall Berman, another working class boy who went up to Oxford. Berman takes Merrifield under his wing and shows him the thrills available in Dostoevsky and Marx over cups of coffee in ordinary cafes on New York City’s Upper West Side.
The mood music to these love affairs is provided by a rich repertoire of intellects, from Jane Jacobs to Mike Davis, from Louis Malle to Walter Benjamin. John Lennon, a pupil, like Merrifield, at Quarry Bank school in Liverpool, enters the story; so too the novelist and critic John Berger. And providing tonality throughout is the stripped down, razor honed talk about love in the stories of Raymond Carver.