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The Magic Box

Rob Young

A riveting journey into the psyche of Britain through its golden age of television and film; a cross-genre feast of moving pictures, from classics to occult hidden gems, The Magic Box is the nation’s visual self-portrait in technicolour detail.

51 in stock

£20.00
Format
Hardback
ISBN
9780571284597
Date Published
05.08.2021
Delivery
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Summary

A riveting journey into the psyche of Britain through its golden age of television and film; a cross-genre feast of moving pictures, from classics to occult hidden gems, The Magic Box is the nation’s visual self-portrait in technicolour detail.

‘The definition of gripping. Truly, a trove of wyrd treasures.’
BENJAMIN MYERS

‘A lovingly researched history of British TV [that] recalls the brilliant, the bizarre and the unworldly.’
GUARDIAN

‘A reclamation, not just of a visual ‘golden age’, but of Britain as a darkly magical place.’
THE SPECTATOR

‘A feat of argument, description and affection.’ FINANCIAL TIMES
‘Young unearths the ghosts of TV past – and Britain’s dark psyche.’ HERALD
‘Highly entertaining . . . [A] fabulous treasure trove.’ SCOTSMAN
‘Young is a phenomonal scholar.’ OBSERVER
‘Impassioned.’ THE CRITIC

Growing up in the 1970s, Rob Young’s main storyteller was the wooden box with the glass window in the corner of the family living room, otherwise known as the TV set. Before the age of DVDs and Blu-ray discs, YouTube and commercial streaming services, watching television was a vastly different experience. You switched on, you sat back and you watched. There was no pause or fast-forward button.

The cross-genre feast of moving pictures produced in Britain between the late 1950s and late 1980s – from Quatermass and Tom Jones to The Wicker Man and Brideshead Revisited, from A Canterbury Tale and The Go-Between to Bagpuss and Children of the Stones, and from John Betjeman’s travelogues to ghost stories at Christmas – contributed to a national conversation and collective memory. British-made sci-fi, folk horror, period drama and televisual grand tours played out tensions between the past and the present, dramatised the fractures and injustices in society and acted as a portal for magical and ghostly visions.

In The Magic Box, Rob Young takes us on a fascinating journey into this influential golden age of screen and discovers what it reveals about the nature and character of Britain, its uncategorisable people and buried histories – and how its presence can still be felt on screen in the twenty-first century.

‘[A] forensic dissection . . . this tightly packed treatise takes pains to illustrate how what we view affects how we view ourselves.’
TOTAL FILM

Critic Reviews

If Electric Eden was the urtext for the occultist music of Britain, then The Magic Box does the same for the televisual delights and beguiling oddities that have shaped this strange island of ours. Rob Young seamlessly draws several thematic strands together to create a narrative that is the definition of gripping. Truly, a trove of wyrd treasures.

Benjamin Myers
Critic Reviews

An exhaustive, engaging study of postwar British film and television. It is a feat of argument, description and affection.

Brian Dillon, Financial Times
Critic Reviews

A highly entertaining romp through the eccentric history of British TV . . . [a] fabulous treasure trove.

Aidan Smith, Scotsman
Critic Reviews

A work of deep research . . . This is a reclamation, not just of a visual 'golden age', but of Britain as a darkly magical place: fearful, shimmering, violent, bewitched, enduring. The connections made are often enlivening . . . The Magic Box romanticises pre-digital television as a village oracle, knocking on the door to whisper often uncomfortable stories about ourselves.

Graeme Thomson, The Spectator
Critic Reviews

A lovingly researched history of British TV [that] recalls the brilliant, the bizarre and the unworldly . . . [Young] is brilliant at evoking the sheer oddness of these “ghosts of movement”, of otherworldly images emerging from “a hissing void, a blizzard of whirring white dots” to flood the living room.

Sukhdev Sandhu, Guardian
Critic Reviews

Young unearths the ghosts of TV past – and Britain's dark psyche . . . a spooked vision of Weird Britannia . . . The Magic Box is itself an unearthing of the unusual, the “other” in TV and film history, a reminder that there are other narratives apart from the official British history of kings and queens and military victories.

Teddy Jamieson, Herald
RobYoung

Rob Young has worked at The Wire magazine since 1993, including five years as editor. He is the author of Rough Trade and Warp, and the editor of Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music and The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music. He has contributed to publications including Uncut, the Guardian, Sight & Sound, Frieze and Art Review.…

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