In the same vein the Polish artist Zbigniew Libera has constructed a model concentration camp from Lego bricks. Garfield dislikes Lego, because "it doesn't make me feel warm and healthy, but compulsive and snappy", and his fascination with his subject is quite often tinged with queasiness.
Garfield has made his reputation with similar books - on philately, cartography and typography - and this is not his best. He calls In Miniature "a brief history of the model village commonly known as the world", which is pitching it too high, but it has its moments.
Garfield dislikes Lego, because “it doesn’t make me feel warm and healthy, but compulsive and snappy”, and his fascination with his subject is quite often tinged with queasiness.
Garfield has made his reputation with similar books – on philately, cartography and typography – and this is not his best. He calls In Miniature “a brief history of the model village commonly known as the world”, which is pitching it too high, but it has its moments.
Prehistoric female figurines, flea circuses, model railways, replica warships made of spent matches, Victorian dioramas — only a writer with Simon Garfield’s versatility could get them all into one book, and only a writer with his boundless curiosity would want to... A worry for readers is that Garfield sometimes seems sick of his subject... Meanwhile important subjects are missed... Fortunately, people continue to interest him even when his subject palls. The accounts of miniaturists at work bump us out of toy-town into reality.
Garfield... is fascinating and often funny about why miniatures exert such a hold... is full of evocative sentences ...and amusing drive-by thwacks... Garfield cannot resist one-liners... That will either appeal, or it will really not. But what he also shows in abundance is the sympathetic understanding of the needs and travails of “ordinary” people that lit up his previous books... he sees how, above all, miniatures are a celebration of human ingenuity for its own sake, and of the myriad ways in which we try to access our capacity – and slake our need – for wonder.
In Miniature reads like an upmarket Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and I did keep having to search the internet to make sure Garfield wasn’t fantasising. Take Frances Glessner Lee, for example. During the 1940s this wealthy grandmother, who resembled Miss Marple and had a serious interest in forensic science, modelled eerily illuminated scenes of imaginary (but plausible) unexplained deaths. I really should have heard of her, but many of Garfield’s references are pleasingly interstitial
polished prose... he does put forward the feasible thesis that people create miniature worlds, over which they can exercise absolute power, because they feel powerless to affect the real world. Just occasionally, Garfield’s penchant for literary name-checking veers from enthusiastic to pretentious... occasionally his fascination with what are tiny details becomes mind-numbingly nerdish... for instance, my eyes started to glaze over when he began comparing the merits of different micro-typefaces.