One of the most ironic realities of the information age is that even as the world grows larger and more diverse, the global population becomes more and more interconnected. Due to this international overlap of interest and ideas, culture has constantly grown to play a larger role in the world, overtaking politics as many nations' most unifying and defining aspect. Oddly enough, cultural imperialism today can be construed as a bigger threat to the autonomy of other countries than colonialism was 100 years ago. Yet culture has also become yet another means of communication among different peoples, allowing them to find commonality through the universality of art. It's a daunting task, then, to try and keep up with all the changes in the world, a task David Toop would seem to be up for in his new Exotica. Toop's last book, Oceans Of Sound, was like a series of Polaroid pictures taken around the world, then thrown into the sea to find their way to different shores: Toop doggedly refused to distance Debussey from dub music, or director Michael Mann from Miles Davis. It was all one and the same, a means of expressing emotion through art. He's also one of the few writers who refuse to separate listening from learning and hearing from experiences. For Toop, who has dedicated his life to music, music is life. That illusion was shattered when Toop's wife committed suicide, and in Exotica's emotionally draining preface, he implies how his wife's death and his daughter's life made music suddenly seem trivial. Crossing the narrative of a particularly abstract novel with the fact-based thrust of music journalism, Exotica, then, is a quest to reclaim that passion for music, wherever he may find it. Consequently, when he writes about his own life in Exotica—which tends to veer barely perceptibly from fact to fiction—Toop ends up writing about the sounds (and smells and shapes) that swirl about him, as if recreating his life from the ground up. The book is not always successful and sometimes close to incoherent, but it's a daring, unique effort.

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