Gareth E. Rees – Car Park Life (2 stars)

Gareth E. Rees – Car Park Life

Ambitious attempt to discover the hidden life of car parks doesn't quite convince

In 2015, Gareth E. Rees became obsessed with the, let's say, quirky idea that retail car parks had an intrinsic power of fascination, and over the next three years, over the course of writing this book, he set out to document it.

As the author of an occult memoir and a previous psychogeography, Rees ought to have been the man for the job, but this kind of writing is only as good as the writer's ability to persuade the reader that there's something worthwhile and revealing about the object of the fascination.

Rees' ambitions are laudable. He boldly claims that 'a Tesco in Warwick can be as interesting as a London marshland or a Nepalese mountain', but if we're going to measure ourselves against the classics, there's little in here that can match the erudite sorcery of Iain Sinclair's London Orbital, or Fosco Maraini's electrifying description of the name of the mountain K2 as 'the bare bones of a name, all rock and ice and storm and abyss.' Rees poking around a Morrison's car park at twilight while his family wait patiently in the car is not quite as riveting.

The book gets better towards the end, when the author reveals that his marriage broke up during the writing of it. At last, the spectacle of the disoriented writer scuffling about car parks in search of a meaning to life makes a kind of sense; but some sort of beige reticence inhibits Rees from digging deep and telling us what happened there. Somewhere in here, there's a less pretentious but more affecting book trying to get out.

Out now via Influx Press