Dodo At Oxford by Philip Atkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Truth be told, when a friend buys a book for me, I'm more-often-than-not thankful, but shamefully put the book on a pile, probably never to be read again. In this case, however, some good friends of mine, who understand my . . . erm . . . quirky taste in books, picked this up while they were visiting Oxford. They also knew that Oxford is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I've seen a few cities in my time. As a US Air Force brat during the Reagan/Thatcher years, I lived in Bedford, UK, and traveled to Oxford a few times, in which I fell in love with that storied city. So I was delighted to read this book, which is, ostensibly, a "found" diary written by a student at Oxford in the 17th-Century. Said student inherits one of the last of the Dodos and undertakes a study of the bird. But the diary really isn't about the bird, it's about life in Oxford, early modern and modern. The book as an artifact is wonderful, with "found" objects like a collectors card from a pack of cigarettes, a photo of an injured cat, and a series of letters and other documents hinting at the story of a dog being purchased and transported across the country. The many side notes, some of them completely non-sequitor, add a whimsical air to the work, illuminating the story and the book itself, even down to the type of print used in its pages. It is a funny, somewhat surreal contemplation on the city itself, perhaps pointing to the Dodo as a type or symbol of the city itself. But your conclusion might be different - this book lends itself to many interpretations, none of them wrong.
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