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Walk on the Wild Side

A new book by Geoff Nicholson, The Lost Art of Walking, receives a mostly negative critique in the New York Times by a self-admitted somewhat-disabled non-walker, whose main complaint is that walking is slow and dull—and who thus misses the entire point. So it's "dull" to be alone with one's own mind? "Slow" to be immersed in reality?

The Economist offers a contrastingly upbeat review [1] by someone who gets it, titled "More than gadding about". It includes such tidbits as:

Lovingly collected factoids leap off the page. British troops in the first world war were given "forced march tablets" consisting of cocaine. It takes a brisk 35 miles (56km) to burn off a pound (0.45kg) of body fat. Some of the commonest synonyms for walk in the English language (such as trudge, stroll and saunter) have no clear etymological roots. The best term associated with walking is not English at all: the French flâner, he writes, is "a truly wonderful word ... it can mean to stroll, but it can also mean the act of simply hanging around."

This book is no mere miscellany, but the story of a man's love affair with the oldest means of locomotion: one foot in front of the other. Walking, he says, is like sex: "basic, simple, repetitive activities ... capable of great sophistication and elaboration. They can be completely banal and meaningless, and yet they can also involve great passions and adventures. Both can lead you into strange and unknown territories: a walk on the wild side."

Nicholson punctures the hot-air balloon of "Psychogeography" and similarly brings pompous literary theorists of pedestrianism down to earth. His book is yet another addition to my too-long to-read list ...

(cf. WalkAbout (2002-03-09), TwoTowers (2002-12-29), ExpandingUniverse (2003-06-26), FastWalker (2005-04-03), ...) - ^z - 2008-12-16