The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of Pedestrianism
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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.
top is just about worth the effort. There is in Los Angeles these days a place called Raymond Chandler Square. It isn’t a square in the usual sense, but rather an 52 GEOFF NICHOLSON intersection where Cahuenga and Hollywood boulevards meet. It’s pleasing in a way that Raymond Chandler Square is so ordinary, so unfancy. It’s the kind of place where the businesses don’t seem to be in it for the long run; but the last time I looked, the four corners offered a Greek pizzeria, a Popeyes chicken
between the created and the found object, between the making of art and the claiming of what’s there. It was undoubtedly a sculpture, but the slate had not been “sculpted” in any conventional sense; it had simply been arranged. Two hundred fourteen lumps of slate had been extracted from the ground and carefully, artfully placed on the ﬂoor in the warm glow of an art gallery, where I could see and walk around them. They made my days of pacing very happy. There were certain ironies in the artwork
on the sidewalk, and it became a good deal less white. In a schoolyard at 104th Street a lone white teenager was sitting on a wall by the chain-link fence trying not to look nervous, and failing. He wasn’t within a hundred yards of 11 6 GEOFF NICHOLSON any other kid in the schoolyard, none of whom shared his skin color. If this were a movie you knew he’d integrate and ingratiate himself in some novel manner; as it was it looked like he was just sitting there praying for his school days to be
Harry Dean Stanton as a purveyor of funny walks, and that’s precisely why these walks work so well, because they belong to the character rather than the actor. 13 8 GEOFF NICHOLSON But that’s pretty much it for walking in the movie. Sure, people walk across rooms and across parking lots, but there are no more genuine walking scenes. Paris, Texas turns into what it was threatening to be all along: a road movie. Travis buys a 1959 Ford Ranchero, and father and son drive off in search of Mom,
festival. For instance, there was “The World Is My Studio,” in which an artist named Sitka was giving “a narrated tour in which she talks about everyday objects and spaces as if they were her work, contextualizing things like moving cars, people’s pets and social gestures as the products of her artistic practice.” There was Paul Harley’s “Pansy Project,” in which he revisited “city streets planting pansies where he has received verbal homophobic abuse. These self-seeding pansies act as a living