The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism

The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism

by Geoff Nicholson
     
 

How we walk, where we walk, why we walk tells the world who and what we are. Whether it's once a day to the car, or for long weekend hikes, or as competition, or as art, walking is a profoundly universal aspect of what makes us humans, social creatures, and engaged with the world. Cultural commentator, Whitbread Prize winner, and author of Sex

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Overview

How we walk, where we walk, why we walk tells the world who and what we are. Whether it's once a day to the car, or for long weekend hikes, or as competition, or as art, walking is a profoundly universal aspect of what makes us humans, social creatures, and engaged with the world. Cultural commentator, Whitbread Prize winner, and author of Sex Collectors Geoff Nicholson offers his fascinating, definitive, and personal ruminations on the literature, science, philosophy, art, and history of walking.

Nicholson finds people who walk only at night, or naked, or in the shape of a cross or a circle, or for thousands of miles at a time, in costume, for causes, or for no reason whatsoever. He examines the history and traditions of walking and its role as inspiration to artists, musicians, and writers like Bob Dylan, Charles Dickens, and Buster Keaton. In The Lost Art of Walking, he brings curiosity, imagination, and genuine insight to a subject that often strides, shuffles, struts, or lopes right by us.
 

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Editorial Reviews

D. T. Max
This is not a travel book so much as an omnium-gatherum for those who like to ride what was once called "the marrow bone coach." It is perfect for the armchair walker. Nicholson's stance is that of the ordinary man on the street, fortified by his commonsense Englishness.
—The New York Times
Jonathan Yardley
The gifted, resourceful Geoff Nicholson here conducts the reader on a leisurely, entirely delightful ramble through the history and lore of walking, an exercise that calls to my mind nothing so much as one of the few notable walking songs he fails to mention, the great New Orleans funeral march "Oh, Didn't He Ramble," as immortalized by Louis Armstrong and played by heaven knows how many other musicians, famous and obscure, from the Big Easy…Nicholson is resolutely commonsensical. He delights in the simple truth that "going for a walk" is an invitation to a surprise
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

"Setting foot in a street makes it yours in a way that driving down it never does," says Nicholson (Sex Collectors), and mundane though walking may be, Nicholson tells us in this leisurely, charmingly obsessive literary stroll, pedestrianism is not without drama, from pratfalls like the one in which he broke his arm on an innocuous Hollywood Hills street to getting lost in the desert of western Australia. Walks, he reminds us, have inspired writers from Thoreau and Emerson to Dickens and Joyce, as well as musicians from Fats Domino to Aerosmith. Nicholson guides readers from the streets of L.A.-where walkers are invariably regarded with suspicion-to New York City and London. He considers the history of "eccentric" walkers like the "competitive pedestrian" Capt. Robert Barclay Allardice, whose early 19th-century walking feats gave him the reputation of a show-off. From street photographers to "perfect" walks-the first at the Poles, the first on the moon-and walks that never happened, Nicholson's genial exploration of this "most ordinary, ubiquitous activity" is lively and entertaining. (Nov.)

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Library Journal

Prolific author and novelist Nicholson (The Food Chain) has penned an engaging and entertaining treatise on walking. Chapters include amusing descriptions of walks through cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and London and musings about professional and nonprofessional walkers past and present, walking through nature, street photographers and their craft, and the long walk home or away from home. Nicholson's witty style and distinct way of describing an ordinary activity make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. While by no means exhaustive, Nicholson does himself tread a lot of ground; readers may find the ultimate effect is that they are inspired to put the book down for a nice long walk with a newfound way of observing the scenery. In the author's words, "it confirmed for me what I'd known all along, that walking isn't much good as a theoretical experience." The book includes a bibliography, but there aren't references for many of the intriguing tidbits he includes, which may disappoint academics and serious readers. Recommended for public libraries and sociology collections.
—Mary Grace Flaherty

Kirkus Reviews

British-born Nicholson (Sex Collectors, 2006, etc.) muses amiably on the pleasures of walking.

The author began work on this story-filled volume with a jaunt through the Hollywood Hills near his home in Los Angeles, promptly took a header and broke his right forearm in three places, thereby joining the ranks of Aldous Huxley, Thomas Jefferson, Oliver Sacks and others who walked and fell. Nicholson was soon back on his feet, fortunately, to delight us with this discursive historical account of the who, what, where, why, when and how of walking, including his own adventures on the streets of Los Angeles, Manhattan and elsewhere. "Setting foot in a street makes it yours in a way that driving down it never does," he writes. He once walked the length of London's busy Oxford Street six times (a distance of 20 miles) on the sixth day of the sixth month of 2006 for the sheer perverse pleasure of doing it, he confesses. Nicholson holds forth on eccentric walkers, walking in songs ("Walkin' After Midnight") and movies ("Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!"), street photography, walking tours and walking in literature, from Ray Bradbury's story "The Pedestrian" to Paul Auster's strolling detective in City of Glass. He recounts his experiences walking and hitchhiking across the United States; walking home as a child in working-class Sheffield, England; walking defiantly in parking lots; and strolling on Harlem's 135th Street, where someone shouted, "White man! White man!" We learn that unborn babies make walking motions at 17 weeks; that it takes 35 miles of walking to lose one pound; that cars in New York injure 15,000 pedestrians each year; and that Charles Dickens, a great walker, casually invitedguests on pre-dinner walks that often lasted for hours. Nicholson has walked everywhere from the Mojave Desert to the floor of Harrods, and many readers will wish they could join him on his next perambulation.

Great fun.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594489983
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/20/2008
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.46(h) x 0.98(d)
Age Range:
13 - 14 Years

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