Through the keyhole
My response to Ian Carter's fine tome British Railway Enthusiasm has been published at the Scoop Review of Books this week. Before you ask me why I'm so warmly recommending a four hundred page study of train spotting, model railway building, and similar phenomena, let me repeat a point I made in my review:
Is a mind as supple as Carter’s wasted on a subject as modest as railway-related hobbyism? Should this senior scholar not be devoting himself to an analysis of the crises of capitalism, or a study of the social implications of global warming, or an examination of the state of Western democracy? Questions like these have been muttered by sociologists who mistake grand research subjects for important research results. Such people misunderstand the method at work in British Railway Enthusiasm, and in many of Carter’s other books. Like his heroes, the American sociologist C Wright Mills and the Welsh cultural historian Raymond Williams, Carter likes to select a single, relatively limited subject as a sort of ‘keyhole’ through which he can view a whole society and era.
You can take a peek at the rest of my review here.