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From the author of Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music comes a riveting journey into the psyche of Britain through its golden age of television and film.

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 of moving pictures and discovers what this reveals about the nature and character of Britain, its uncategorisable people and buried histories – and how their presence can still be felt on screen in the twenty-first century.

 Praise for Rob Young:

‘Young is a phenomenal scholar.’ Observer

‘Comprehensive and absorbing . . . an impassioned and infectious rallying cry of a book.’ Dan Cairns, Sunday Times, on Electric Eden

 ‘Hugely ambitious . . . A thoroughly enjoyable read and likely to remain the best-written overview for a long time.’ Michel Faber, Guardian Book of the Week, on Electric Eden

 ‘Terrific . . . A lucid and patriotic guided tour, as vigorous as one of Heathcliff’s strolls across the moors.’ Dwight Garner, New York Times, on Electric Eden

 ‘An admirable work of loving and careful research . . . superb.’ Alan Warner, Guardian, on All Gates Open

 ‘A music book like no other.’ Rough Trade, Books of the Year, on All Gates Open

Rob Young is the author of Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music and All Gates Open: The Story of Can. He is the editor of Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music and The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music. A former editor of The Wire magazine, he also contributes to UncutGuardianSight & SoundArt Review and Frieze.

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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.