Biography

James Attlee is the author of Guernica: Painting the End of the World; Station to Station, shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year 2017 and Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight, among other titles. His digital fiction The Cartographer’s Confession won the New Media Writing Prize in 2018.

Reviews

Mab Jones
Buzz Magazine

‘A unique book that is a travel guide of sorts, and a fascinating collection of reflections and revelations, with Attlee’s fine mind pulling it together, Under The Rainbow is a brilliant read.’  

Marina Warner

‘Attlee’s form of attention shows us a sensitive way of caring and relating and recognising the lives of others: by attending to messages, gestures, signals in the surrounding streets, by inviting neighbours’ stories and explanations, he has assembled a searching portrait of the time of Covid.’

Sally Bayley

‘Attlee captures an intense moment of national self-reckoning by letting those who speak to him from their doorsteps really speak. The result is a carefully curated form of polyphony, sometimes interjected with personal support, but more often with real sympathy, that carries him back to reflections upon poetry and art.’

Roman Krznaric
author of The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World

'Under the Rainbow is a gem of a book. It refracts the pandemic into a prism of colours, revealing it not just as a public health crisis but as one that touches issues from racial injustice to the climate emergency. With his observant eye and lyrical prose, Attlee takes us beyond the statistics and political statements to help us make sense of living through the shared moments of a global catastrophe.'

Tim Pears
author of The West Country Trilogy

‘Observant, enquiring, contemplative, James Attlee has carried out a deft investigation of a city in lockdown. I love the way he listens to people, thinks about what they've said, and lets it lead him to some relevant allusion or philosophical notion.’

Alexandra Harris
author of Weatherland

‘Full of warmth, wit and eloquence, and a rare, refreshing combination of modesty and conviction, Under the Rainbow is a supple investigation of familiar symbols. I loved the careful anthropological questioning of the complex world on our doorsteps.’

Patrick Keiller
director of London

‘Attlee’s intrepid enquiring sympathetically explores the anxieties and hopes of summer 2020.’

Praise for Isolarion

‘The attraction, for Attlee, is that the Cowley Road “is both unique and nothing special”; the resulting book is unique and very special . . . Residents of East Oxford can be proud to have this eccentric advocate and eloquent explorer in their midst.’ Geoff Dyer, The Guardian

‘A new Oxford that no guidebook has yet captured.’ Richard B. Woodward, New York Times

‘Attlee proves that good travel writing is not about where you go, or how you go there, but the way that you look at the world that you pass through.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Isolarion, despite its title, is about engagement. Attlee shows the hidden beauty of the plural society.’ Financial Times

‘Attlee captures the essence of this city better than any tour bus ever could.’ Paul Kingsnorth, The Independent

‘A vivid account of daily life, fluid and unsettling, in a modern British town with powerful allegorical reflections on the connections between past and present, time and space, and high culture and the hard-scrabble world that sustains it. Oxford may be the city of lost causes, and this book is indeed ambitious; it could easily sound sententious or twee. But it works, gloriously.’ The Economist

‘I have written much about the streets of Oxford myself, but seldom so perceptively or interestingly . . . Anyone who can drag Lucretius, Susanna, Bathsheba, and St. Jerome into a Cowley Road porn shop deserves our attention and admiration.’ Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse

‘I have never read a better book about Oxford – its oddities and eccentricities. The peripatetic local form of James Attlee’s delightful book makes it a storehouse of information as well as a joy to read for its wit and humour.’ John Bayley

‘With an eclecticism that ropes in Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy, Foucault, a porn shop and a Jamaican restaurant, Attlee scrutinises a sense of place. He reminds me of the old scholars, chock full of intellectual curiosity and an almost alchemical sensibility. Here you will find wry humour, intellectual curiosity, strangeness and charm.’ Ray Mattinson, Blackwell’s, Oxford

Geoff Dyer
The Guardian

‘The attraction, for Attlee, is that the Cowley Road ’is both unique and nothing special’; the resulting book is unique and very special . . . Residents of East Oxford can be proud to have this eccentric advocate and eloquent explorer in their midst.’


Sunday Telegraph

‘Attlee proves that good travel writing is not about where you go, or how you go there, but the way that you look at the world that you pass through.’


Financial Times

‘Isolarion, despite its title, is about engagement. Attlee shows the hidden beauty of the plural society.’

Richard B. Woodward
The New York Times

‘A new Oxford that no guide book has yet captured.’

Paul Kingsnorth
The Independent

‘Attlee captures the essence of this city better than any tour bus ever could.’


The Economist

‘A vivid account of daily life, fluid and unsettling, in a modern British town with powerful allegorical reflections on the connections between past and present, time and space, and high culture and the hard-scrabble world that sustains it. Oxford may be the city of lost causes, and this book is indeed ambitious; it could easily sound sententious or twee. But it works, gloriously.’

Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse

‘I have written much about the streets of Oxford myself, but seldom so perceptively or interestingly . . . Anyone who can drag Lucretius, Susanna, Bathsheba, and St. Jerome into a Cowley Road porn shop deserves our attention and admiration.’

John Bayley

‘I have never read a better book about Oxford – its oddities and eccentricities. The peripatetic local form of James Attlee’s delightful book makes it a storehouse of information as well as a joy to read for its wit and humour.’


National Geographic Traveler

‘All the messy glories of Cowley Road – pubs and porn shops alike – come to life in this work, which becomes a meditation on home and the nature of pilgrimage.’

Eric Christiansen
The Spectator

‘A force for good when it comes to resisting the drive and the dismal dialect of modernisation . . . To stiffen the sinews for the rearguard action every Oxonian should buy this book.’

Ray Mattinson
Blackwell’s, Oxford

‘With an eclecticism that ropes in Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy, Foucault, a porn shop and a Jamaican restaurant, Attlee scrutinises a sense of place. He reminds me of the old scholars, chock full of intellectual curiosity and an almost alchemical sensibility. Here you will find wry humour, intellectual curiosity, strangeness and charm.’

Rebecca Mead
Bookforum

‘The fish-out-of water travelogue is a staple of the bookstore, but Attlee . . . has set himself a different task: to be the fish, and to give a detailed description of the properties of the water. . . Attlee’s reading is deep and wide and engagingly circuitous, and this book frequently provides the delights of discovery that make any adventure worth undertaking.’

Elizabeth Garner
London Times

‘In an age in which air travel opens up the world, and holidays are to escape the mundane, Attlee encourages us to look at the riches on our doorstep . . . The end of our journey as humankind is not known, but Isolarion provides an invaluable guide to how to progress along the way.’


Sydney Morning Herald

‘The vignettes, like marks on a painting by a pointillist, eventually coalesce to become a beautiful work of art.’

Andrew Mead
Architect's Journal

‘It’s now a familiar story of the local versus the global; the tide of increasing uniformity as chains proliferate and streets succumb to banal prescriptions . . . But Attlee tells the story vividly and well, and it’s a book that anyone concerned for the future of their own town’s Cowley Road could read with profit.’

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