Owen Hatherley's new travelogue through the grim thoroughfares of contemporary urban planning is raising both hackles and high praise from across the mainstream media.
Reviewing A New Kind of Bleak for Time Out, Euan Ferguson praises Hatherley's "typically acerbic and witty arguments" on the ideological landscape that have shaped our urban environments, from the unrealised potential of post-war planning to the clumsy market-driven regeneration of Blairism:
Hatherley's an engaging, fearless and startlingly intelligent polemicist, one unashamed to talk about class and capitalism and the importance of state provision. We need a writer like him now more than ever, an uncompromising voice from the left: the purpose of his search for the real Britain is not to take the piss or exhume fake nostalgia but to ask questions for which there are no easy answer.
Madness, thinks Igor Toronyi-Lalic, writing in the Sunday Telegraph. Sheer Marxist madness which reduces the complex reality of a changing economy into a simple class critique and too often engages in political, rather than aesthetic, critique. "The conclusions Hatherley draws are mad" thunders Toronyi-Lalic. They are "hamstrung by Marxist ideas" whilst simultaneously being "full of Daily Mail-like miserabilism" [sic], producing a "childish rant", a "hatelogue" against a simplistic "bleak neoliberal future":
You've got to feel sorry for Owen Hatherley. Being a Marxist in the 21st century must be exhausting. Lined up against you: the world. Tories and Lib Dems, Blairites and Brownites, the flag-waving working-classes, the comfy middle-classes: you hate them all.
Such partisan hate must indeed be suffocating. But the Metro finds Hatherley's "scholarly and informed views" to be "vividly expressed", finding relief in models of positive, modern social-democracy and mini-cities. The Metro finds Hatherley combining
his sharp critical eye with mordant humour to leaven the experience for readers. But for the most part the book is an unremitting indictment of the legacy of politicians, architects and planners, observed with a precision and fury to force you to open your eyes.