The author of The Four Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World returns with an exploration of contemporary culture and the subjective nature of reality with a book at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and memoir reflecting on the death of his parents.
It is a philosophical meditation on perceptions of reality, achieved by means of beguilingly playful moves from confession to anthropology to social analysis. It is also an elegy for two lost parents ... Scott holds these strands in delicate, elusive dialogue ... Though his book is often as free-wheelingly convivial as a conversation in a bar, Scott watches his own arguments to see how they might hold up through a night’s vigil in intensive care ... I suspect Scott of having spent many nights reading John Donne. Certainly he feels with acuity the shaping power of a metaphorical conceit ... In the tradition of Barthes’s mythographies of everyday life, Scott makes banal things shimmer with meaning ... He 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.
Scott’s mode of argument is freewheeling and associative ... His tone is that of a digital insider, watchful and unblinkered but never a Jeremiah. Picnic Comma Lightning is, in fact, scrupulous almost to a fault. Sometimes Scott worries away for too long at an idea, and his range of reference, from Winnie the Pooh to Jacques Lacan, can be dizzying. But his project—to carve out a more reflective space, a 'poeticized reality,' in this four-dimensional world—feels admirable and necessary. In an era of anti-nuance, such meticulousness is a tonic.
If you’ve ever read the quicksilver French cultural theorist Roland Barthes on the Citroën DS, or Greta Garbo’s face, you’ll have an idea of how Scott works. Like Barthes, he is always surprising ... you feel Scott’s fascinated unease. [A] smoky mood runs through the book ... Scott is very, very good at metaphors. He also has a formidably wide range of cultural reference ... Less successful are the fragments of memoir that are intercut into the cultural commentary ... It is all thoughtfully, movingly done, yet the two parts of the book feel cleverly stitched rather than grown together ... This is a fine, nuanced, sometimes scintillating book, then, but the balance is not quite right.