Oxford is a world-renowned stronghold of knowledge, a lush medieval city dotted with beautiful gardens. But it stands for something deep in our minds—excellence, a kind of privilege, a charmed life, deepveined liberalism, a respect for tradition. In his attempt to capture the spirit of this verdant place, Justin Cartwright has spoken to many leading figures, looked at favorite places in Oxford, and even subjected himself to an English tutorial (he performed very poorly). At the same time he has looked at some of the great debates that made Oxford what it is, and patched together the complex history of the place.
Cartwright depicts the beauty of this historic city and muses on his own experiences there. At the same time, though, this is more than an encomium to an influential place: It is Cartwright’s reckoning with both age and memory. No longer a young man, he examines the walls of this old city for the shadows of his former self and, in broad, powerful strokes, delivers a reflection on the meaning of history, both grand and small.