Johnson's Life Of London: The People Who Made The City That Made Paperback – Nov 5 2012
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'A book of hidden gems...his vocabulary is extraordinary and his polymathery a joy...as he cycles through history .we glimpse him everywhere...it is best when Boris's enthusiasms are on display, as exuberant as a vase of bird-of-paradise blooms' THE TIMES 'Revealing anecdotes go far beyond familiar guide-book tales...Johnson's unerring eye for detail catches your attention but also moves his story on...Johnson sets out his stall for London's future with such patent sincerity that you'd have to be stony-hearted not to go along for the ride' MAIL ON SUNDAY 'As the thumbnail sketches accumulate, we come to realise just how like Boris all the London heroes have been' EVENING STANDARD 'Johnson's sketchbook diverts...(while) Livingstone's doorstop apologia will try the patience of the most obsessional geek' INDEPENDENT
About the Author
Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London in May 2008. Before this he was the Editor of the SPECTATOR and Member of Parliament for Henley on Thames. He is the author of many books, notably HAVE I GOT VIEWS FOR YOU and DREAM OF ROME.
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Top Customer Reviews
His Worship, Mayor of Greater London, is in an interesting position to express the wide-eyed fascination of the immigrant tourist in the amazing story of this squalid city. The plaice grew piecemeal and staggered from Impicts from the Four Horsemem. War, Pestilence, Famine and of course Death stalked itsi streets at the same time as its creative and bullying class conscious citizens ignored the plight of " lesser " mortals.
Monarchs and musicians, soldiers and scientists intersperse with minihistories of policing, bicycles mind ping pong. Each of these has a dark block of print assigned to it and is treated a little more seriously than the subjects of the regular serial contributors to the City.. Mr. Mayor throws in pieces of schoolboy vernacular. With intellectual quotations in Latin and Greek. He maintains a distance from his creations and thus claims both religious and irreligious feelings.
I an expatriate Londoner by absorption, was affected by nostalgia, pride, disgust and love in different degrees and I must say that for me this was a lournalistic triumph. Boris hits the spot. He knows his London.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Unlike most books presented as authored by American politicians in our era, 'Johnson's Life of London' has the compelling feel that can come only from a skilled writer in sync with his topic.
Boris Johnson loves London, and he loves life, and he loves writing--and he loves to put on a show for an audience.
Johnson's approach is to guide one through London via her history. He illuminates and brings together otherwise disparate historical fragments through his rendition of the legends of out-sized figures. Here we have Chaucer, there we have Shakespeare. Here we have the incomparable Samuel Johnson, there we have the notorious and engaging John Wilkes. Who but Boris Johnson would follow the inimitable Winston Churchill with the equally inimitable, though nonetheless surprising Keith Richards?
This book has something for nearly everyone. Whether you're going to London, would like to go to London or to remember London--or would just like a touch of London amid your day--you'll savor this one.
Americans will love this book if they have any interest in the city or any plans to visit it. London's citizens should feel that their mayor has 'done them proud' in this warm appreciation for the major personages, buildings, ideas and movements that make this city--in his eyes--the most vital in the world and the 'nest' out of which so many fine things have hatched. Johnson's scope is vast but not necessarily superficial. His learning is large and, one senses, that this account of his is selective and that he could have told many more equally compelling stories. Bridging the past and present, Boris Johnson takes us back to the first Roman foundations of London and its early tribulations under the onslaught of the furious Queen Boudica. He brings us up-to-date on archeological findings from the Roman era, including an appreciation of the Emperor Hadrian and the beginnings of Christian worship in London and the precursor of St. Paul's Cathedral. He has zippy chapters on Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, Goeffrey Chaucer and a myth-debunking sketch of the early financier-Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington. William Shakespeare and London's role in developing the world's public theaters, the importance of the English language to world history (as exemplified in the King James Bible, as well as through Chaucer and Shakespeare) also come in for Johnson's thoughtful and upbeat treatment. One even gets the mayor's take on the importance of Keith Richards to the music of the Rock and Roll era and the role of London in 'giving back' some musical traditions to the United States. (The Beatles, being from Liverpool, are secondary to his chosen topic.)
This book is a marvelous blend of fact and opinion that only the 'quirky' type of English writer could have produced and it will go on my bookshelf along with other important works about British culture and travel to London.
The Mayor's writing style is wonderful - full of insight, double entendre, wry commentary and civic pride. Over the years, I have taken many walking tours of London, and feel as if I know the city reasonably well for an American who has never lived in the UK. Johnson's anecdotes and historical references deepened my hunger to return to London and explore many of the nooks and crannies that still exist where significant events occurred.
One theme that keeps reoccurring is the unique relationship that exists between The City of London - the square mile financial center of the world - and Westminster, the seat of government of London and the UK. As he discusses each period of history, Johnson points out the sometimes synergistic and sometimes antagonistic relationships between the two poles.
If you already know London, this book will deepen your love and understanding. If you are a stranger to London, read the book, and you will yearn to be a stranger no more.
Boris recounts the history of his city in seventeen personalities, nine inventions, and two structures. Some of it seems obvious: how can we survey London without stops on Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Florence Nightingale? Others may take readers by surprise: when we think of London, few of us remember Lionel Rothschild or Emperor Hadrian. And who knew that London gave us the three-piece suit, the municipal sewer system, or ping-pong?
Boris turns out to be a remarkable storyteller. He brings together solid history, fanciful folktales, and the latest discoveries of archaeology and anthropology, to spin London as a yarn of hard-fought but glorious accomplishments. Pesons who could have vanished into the morass of history become giants, in a way they only could in a city like London. Boris tells his tales in a breathless, wheeling, funny, and even mildly naughty tone that hooks readers eagerly.
This unabashedly mythmaking turn at pop history carries the same vigor that has made Boris an international phenomenon. He doesn't even pretend to represent everything about the city. He acknowledges, for instance, the shocking inequality created by the Industrial Revolution, but doesn't linger on it. And he focuses on the "great deeds of gread men" (and some women), creating a history that happens primarily at the top.
But maybe that's the point. This isn't supposed to be dry documentarian history, talking about everyone in an undifferentiated mass. This is the mythic story of a city where anything can happen, and look! Sometimes it does! A woolspinner's son from upriver can turn into the greatest crafter of language ever, as Shakespeare did. A Cockney barber's son can remake the world of art, just like JMW Turner. Wow, just think what you or I could do.
Perhaps most remarkably, most of the personalities Boris so lovingly recounts were, like Boris himself, born elsewhere. King Alfred the Great retook the city from the Norse and restored its greatness, but he was a Winchester man. Samuel Johnson, tabloid firestarter WT Stead, and showman mayor Dick Whittington all immigrated from the provinces. Some of Boris' great Londoners aren't even British.
London, for Boris, is more than just a place. It's the opportunity to remake ourselves, to encounter new ideas and more diverse peoples, and become the spirits we were meant to be. If America is the new Shining City on a Hill, as one President claimed, it inherited that role after that honor straddled the Thames for nineteen hundred years. Boris tells an exciting, spirited yarn. And he makes his city a true hero.