Michael Holroyd On Wheels

People Culture

Influx-promoted truism no 1: Cars mean more to people than simply a means of getting from A to B.

It’s a commonplace here. One of the foundations, in fact, of the Influx ethos. We were excited and intrigued, therefore, when we heard that BBC Radio 4’s current book of the week fleshes out this almost-instinct this week for an audience who might normally scoff at quality writing about the culture of cars.

But, as Michael Holroyd’s new book On Wheels brings to the fore, the meaning, ideas, physicality and nature of cars themselves over the years have waxed and waned.

Holroyd, who has been known as a biographer of real repute, is not the usual sort of hack like yours truly, known to scribble about the properties of handling and of BHPs of Torque units, forced induction or grip.

His usual subjects have been folk who lived in a rarified intellectual atmosphere intellectual giants like George Bernard Shaw and the literary luvvies of the Bloomsbury Group.

It’s all the more refreshing, then to see auntie beeb swivel its gimlet eye on a subject we have known for a long time deserves more critical attention than the acreage of car mags would have us believe.