The Art of Wandering: The Writer as Walker
Although biking is my main form of aerobics, walking was my first love and I still walk when the distance I am going is short. The other day I had a small trip to make and it was a bit snowy and icy for a bike. So, I walked to do my chore; and on the way home, I stopped by a branch of the Evanston public library to warm up. I was browsing and found The art of wandering: the writer as walker on the shelves. I had been ruminating on things to write about; and of course, the book struck my fancy. The book is a delight and the author, Merlin Coverley, has another book that I want to read now on the subject of psychogeography whose meaning I guess at!
The art of wandering has a lot of details even going back to the peripatetic philosophers who got their name by strolling about the coliseums rather than along the Roman or Greek countryside, according to Coverley. The first chapter, entitled "the writer as walker", talks about sequencing in relation to writing. I had heard of this topic in relation to teaching English as a second language and in system analysis classes where one "walks" the participants through a procedure.
The writer talks about different kinds of walkers. Besides the peripatetic walkers there are the vagrants, the tramps, the stalkers, the vagabonds, the flaneurs, the dadaists, etc. In case you are wondering who the flaneurs were, they were a group of French walkers who thought the pace of the walk should be about the same as that of a turtle.
One thing I liked about the author was that he talked about philosophers who had breakdowns as people who had breakdowns. One such flaneur was Andre Breton. He was trying to walk aimlessly with his comrades and thought he saw a white cockroach. He started yelling and had a meltdown. Another person walked away from a mental hospital, and tried to use walking as a cure. The author talked about such incidences as a matter of course. That was refreshing when so many of us today speak of people who have mental or emotional issues as "the Other." I think we need to remember the humanness of people.
Least you think Coverley ignores us Americans, he gave a lengthy diatribe on Paul Bunyan, a character I had not heard discussed much since grammar school. He also talked about people in prison going on fantasy trips and pacing out the fantasy with their prison walks. He closes the book with a discussion of a person who took walks along a highway on the perimeter of London.
I find walking a very satisfying experience, and it also helps me to sequence my thoughts. I felt vindicated by this book. I am not sure I am obsessive enough to take walks along the perimeter of Chicago but it's a thought!
What would you rather do?
Coverley is a very published writer. Here are some of his other books.
This is another of his books related to "The art of wandering."
Coverly at the Library
This is the best video I could find of Merlin Coverly talking. It looks as if he is in a library or bookstore. He is an avid fan of all things English including out-of-print books.
Wandering on the Southside of Chicago
I just moved to an Oxford House on the Southside of Chicago. I was going to go to a Wanderer's Club but no one answered the door. I got robbed on the way back. I hope I don't have to limit myself to walk on the stepper downstairs in the basement while I am here!