Pico Iyer's book of essays about international locales contends that the modern world-scurrying citizen, pushed by business demands or political migrations, can easily lose both roots and sense of home. Airports have morphed into cities where scores of languages are spoken, thousands work, and millions travel through mazed villages of McDonalds, massage parlors, and self-help groups that twist along for miles; the Dallas-Fort Worth airport alone grabs more space than Manhattan. And city life is no different: Iyer's apartment building also houses an immigration office, banks, four cinemas, dozens of restaurants and nearly 100 boutiques; the technologically plugged-in businessman with whom he stays has five phones across the world, a dozen international bank accounts, and travels more than a pilot.
Whether in Toronto--where in larger schools nearly 80 languages may be heard--London, or at the Olympics in Atlanta, Iyer witnesses the overlapping of hundreds of heterogeneous cultures, often pushed by corporate concerns toward commercial homogeneity and powered by technology that offers an office in the sky. The picture painted by Iyer--himself a confused and well-traveled multicultural citizen--is extreme, sci-fi, and futuristic even though set in the present: a global village turned spinning metropolis, with so many fragments set loose in its gyrations that it threatens to explode the minds of its residents. But even this shell-shocked world traveler finds peace, concluding that a simpler life may be a richer one and that home is simply where the frazzled mind decides it will be. In an era when new frontiers open monthly, when frequent flyer miles serve as currency, and constant change may be a lifestyle demand, Iyer's frantic words and dizzying images may prove as prophetic as Alvin Toffler's Future Shock. --Melissa Rossi
From Publishers Weekly
A swirl of locations, time zones and cultures marks Iyer's (Video Night in Katmandu) breathless look at today's world, where borders are passed through as quickly as an airport gift shop. To the author, the concept of the global soul is flexible. It could mean someone who, like the international consultant who carries five different plane tickets at all times, calls the road home, or it could represent the citizen who combines a multicultural past with an equally colorful present. "For a Global Soul like me--for anyone born in several cultures--the challenge in the modern world is to find a city that speaks to as many of our homes as possible," Iyer writes. (An ethnic Indian, Iyer grew up in England and the U.S.; today he splits his time between California and Japan.) He blends an exploration of people like himself with the places they inhabit--the netherworld that is an airport, cities separated from their pasts like Hong Kong, the ethnic m?lange of Toronto and the improbable urbanity of Olympic-host Atlanta. Many of these locales are at once Everyplace and No Place, and Iyer deftly captures the rootlessness of those who dwell there. As he does in his magazine pieces, Iyer brings a fine spiritual current to his writing, and his descriptive talents are unsurpassed, even if he lets his mouth hang open a little too wide marveling at the postmodernism of it all.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.