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The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home Hardcover – February 29, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (February 29, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679454330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679454335
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,281,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I am disappointed with this latest book of Pico Iyer.
David Rasquinha
Also I found Iyer's erudition and intellectualism almost suffocating at times (thought from YT clips and so forth he seems like a great guy).
I found this book to be a bit of a disappointment, all the more disappointing for its promise.
Jeremy P. Bushnell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Raman Joshi on March 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I ran and bought this book after reading an excerpt in a magazine (I can't remember which). I'd never read Iyer before and left the book impressed by a formidable intellect and attention to details.
I enjoyed magazine piece better than the book. The book was great for the first 50 or so pages and then bogged down I thought until the last few pages. He seemed to be saying a lot of the same things over and over.
I find Iyer does a fantastic job of describing the present world of "disconnectedness". Mind you, I can possibly relate more closesly with this than many readers, sharing a somewhat similar upbringing.
The place I thought this book "fell down" was that Iyer and his friends are not "normal, average people", although he says they are. Unless, of course, average people in your world have parents who teach at Oxford, send their kids to the North pole, and your friends make movies with international casts.
Had Iyer focussed more on (what I'd call) "normal average" people, it would have been great to see his present views on Quebec separatism in Canada, which he barely scratches and which are likely deeply influenced by a lot of what he describes. Nonetheless, his decription of modern Toronto is refreshing and exciting.
It would also have been interesting if he had focused more on the Bangladeshi villager now inundated with western images, the old-guard Torontonian now unable to understand nor read the writing on stores around his neighborhood. A global 2nd hand view of this would have been fascinating and made it a stronger my opinion.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy P. Bushnell on June 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be a bit of a disappointment, all the more disappointing for its promise. I share Iyer's conviction that the Global Soul phenomenon is real and important - who among us can say that our personalities do not have some component of Global Soul? - and yet I found Iyer's meditations on it to be frustratingly unfocused. I had read a chapter from this book when it appeared, in a different form, in Harper's a few years back: it was sharp, cogent, witty, interesting, well-observed, and memorable. But freed from the editorial constraints that come with writing for Harper's, the material seems to gain flab; it loses its direction. The book reads something like a few years' worth of notes shaped into memoir form - the notes are interesting, but the subject, at least to my mind, demands something more, an argument, a conclusion, a point, anything beyond just impressions. Iyer comes off as neither a critic of globalism nor a proponent of it - strange, considering that this phenomenon often inspires strong opinions. I'd even settle for ambiguity - I'm a big fan of messy human ambiguity in response to complex topics, and a strong shot of it would do wonders for this book. Instead, Iyer is content to observe and remark in a mannered fashion, dropping the names of the many countries and cultures he crosses paths with as though they were celebrities: exactly the last thing that discourse on this topic needs more of.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
I had already begun reading this book (have read only a/b the first 50 pages), when I logged on to Amazon, with a view to e-mailing a friend a link to the book. Started browsing through the editorial and customer reviews -- all the editorial reviews v. positive, but majority of the customer reviews quite negative.
My bias is gen. towards the customers (and esp. in this case, since they seem to be more actual travellers, vs. editors who merely review travel writing). Yet, and I find this odd, I actually like what I've read so far (caveat: haven't read it all), though I would agree, to a degree, with some of the negative comments.
Perhaps it's because I can relate. Work in finance. Born & raised in Bombay, studied in the US, lived in China learning Mandarin, now in Toronto and a soon-to-be Canadian citizen. No family, no strong ties to anywhere. Perhaps some those readers who dislike the book can't relate.
Some of the comments I agree with. There is repetition. Tone can sometimes be "whiny", as a few readers note. Iyer should pick up some language skills - I can feel at ease in Bombay or Beijing in large part because I have speak both Hindi and Mandarin.
Other criticisms I don't agree with. E.g., some have commented that Iyer's "global soul" relates to a v. small number of people. Well, that's the going-in position. The book is made of observations about being raised, living and working in multiple cultures/geographies. By definition, it's not going to be relevant for most of the 6 bn + people on the planet. They're not the target audience.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David Rasquinha on April 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am disappointed with this latest book of Pico Iyer. He is a fine writer and has the ability to picture scenes and behavior superbly. But one comes away from Global Soul confused and unfulfilled. Pico rambles and meanders all over the place and the flow from one issue to the next is unclear to say the least. I was drawn to this book not only by Pico's past work but also its title. At the end however, one feels Pico has succumbed to jet lag and is lost in some mall, never to reach home. Better luck next time.
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