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About the book
  • Published: 13 June 2019
  • ISBN: 9781786090027
  • Imprint: Windmill Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $28.00

Picnic Comma Lightning

In Search of a New Reality

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A spellbinding examination of the nature of reality, by one of the brightest thinkers of today.

A spellbinding examination of the nature of reality, by one of the brightest thinkers of today.

Cognitive science proposes that we have evolved to build mental maps of the world not according to its actual, physical nature, but according to what allows us to thrive. In other words, our individual and collective realities are fictions – carefully constructed to enable us to maintain our particular perspectives.

It used to be that our fictions were rooted to reasonably solid things: to people, places and memories. Today, in an age of online personas, alternative truths, constant surveillance and an increasingly hysterical news cycle, our realities are becoming more flimsy and more vulnerable than ever before. Ours is now a zoomed-in perspective, where the backstage is centre stage. We are both camera person and subject, with new powers and new weaknesses. Our personal and political spheres are dangerously merging. How will the form and grammar of our feelings have to change in this over-exposed environment? Should any of our stories remain secret? How are these phenomena changing the way we live? How do we maintain a sense of reality in an increasingly fantastic world?

Picnic Comma Lightning is an innovative examination of the nature of reality in the twenty-first century, one that explores the key ethical, political and neurological forces contouring our inner selves, but also the old influences of grief and desire, memory and imagination. In it, award-winning author Laurence Scott provides a lively and accessible new philosophy for this epoch in Western civilisation, one that will change the way you see the world, and your place within it.

  • Pub date: 13 June 2019
  • ISBN: 9781786090027
  • Imprint: Windmill Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $28.00

About the Author

Laurence Scott

Laurence Scott's book The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World (2015) was shortlisted for The Samuel Johnson Prize, won the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Prize, and was named the Sunday Times ‘Thought Book of the Year’. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Guardian, Financial Times, New Statesman, Boston Globe, Wired and the London Review of Books. In 2011 he was named a ‘New Generation Thinker’ by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the BBC, and now regularly writes and presents documentaries for BBC radio, as well as presenting and contributing to the Radio 3 arts and ideas programme, Free Thinking. He is a Lecturer in Writing at New York University in London, where he lives.

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Praise for Picnic Comma Lightning

“A stylish, playful exploration of what digital life is doing to the way we find meaning in the world... It is a philosophical meditation of perceptions of reality, achieved by means of beguilingly playful moves from confession to anthropology to social analysis. Scott operates on a dauntingly large conceptual scale, but there's a sense of embrace in his cleverness. It's not often that a highly ambitious work of social analysis speaks so determinedly to the heart.”

Alexandra Harris, Guardian, 'Book of the Week'

“Laurence Scott’s book on the signs and symbols of the digital age is insightful, in part for its academic nuance but also for its humane, personal style. In trying to make sense of the digital world, Scott takes on everything from the Internet of Things to the changing nature of truth. A moving meditation of reality in the 21st century.”

Wired, 'Books of the Year'

“Reality and belief in the digital age, and signs above all, are the themes of this sophisticated book.... A report from the front line of the digital generation by someone superbly well-equipped to read and decode the signals. Scott is very, very good at metaphors. He also has a formidable wide range of cultural references.”

James McConnachie, Sunday Times

“Clever, funny and deeply moving... an engaging and thought-provoking journey through the fakery of modern life. Digital panic isn't new, but Scott writes such entrancing prose that reading his book is like waking up from a nightmare and realising, in a panicky split-second, that you're not sure if something bad has actually happened in your real life or just in the parallel one that gets live-streamed inside your own head.”

Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

“Laurence Scott … writes beautifully about the experience of reality in the digital age, and about how grief changes our perceptions … I’m besotted with Scott’s writing.”

Derren Brown, i Paper

“[Scott’s] project – to carve out a more reflective space, a “poeticised reality”, in this four-dimensional world – feels admirable and necessary. In an era of anti-nuance, such meticulousness is a tonic.”

Times Literary Supplement

“My favourite book title of the year so far and what lies behind it is delightful, intriguing and sticky; his thoughts on storytelling and our collective realities, play in your mind long after the book is closed. The turn of phrase, the softness but effectiveness of the emotional punch and depth of understanding and subtlety of the dissection of our changing culture of storytelling means my copy is thick with underlined phrases and sentences. Once finished, I began again ... I was perpetually fascinated.”

Robin Ince

“Illuminating... Perceptive... There is throughout the book a sincere wish to make beautiful sentences and surprising images out of quotidian experience.”

Steven Poole, New Statesman

“The roots of today's rampant unreason are buried deep in the cultural and psychological bedrock of our societies; simplistic explanations don't reveal the seismic faults being opened up by technology. In its willingness to dig deeper, Picnic Comma Lightning provides a bravura investigation of our turbulent times.”

Sumit Paul-Choudhury, New Scientist

“A brave exploration of life after loss and how it alters our reality. Full of insightful, often quite sweeping, formulations. Courageous.”

David Sexton, Evening Standard

“Scott is funny, Scott is personal. An engaging, imaginative, sometimes moving read.”

Tim Stanley, Daily Telegraph

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