Wednesday, June 24, 2009

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

The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism by Geoff Nicholson is my kind of book. It is partly a microhistory of walks, walkers, and walking, telling stories from ancient history to the space age. It is also a memoir, as Nicholson recounts his own walks, both in the places he has lived and in exotic locations that he has visited for the sake of walking.

While I liked the stories featuring characters from history and literature, I especially enjoyed Nicholson's own story. In the first chapter, he tells about walking around Los Angeles, where few people ever leave their houses not in an automobile. On foot he sees things that many people never see. Near the end, he recounts growing up in the "county estates" (public housing) in Sheffield, England. Even as a youth he had a passion for walking. I liked this quote:

"... when I was eleven years old or so and it was reckoned that even though I was too young to be left alone in my parents' house, I was old enough to be allowed to wander the streets of Hillsborough."

The oddest story may have been about family vacations in Blackpool. Their lodgings were only for the night. They had to be out by 8:00 every morning and were not allowed back in until 5:00 in the afternoon. The family, parents and young children, walked through the tourist town, back and forth, all day. Because his parents were frugal, their entertainment options were very limited. It is surprising that he grew up to enjoy vacations and spend them walking.

Thanks to Maggie for recommending The Lost Art of Walking. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Nicholson, Geoff. The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism. Riverhead Books, 2008. ISBN 9781594489983

2 comments:

douglain said...

Using google to find people interested in Geoff Nicholson I found your blog. Thought I'd share a link to an interview I did with Mr. Nicholson for my podcast. http://dietsoap.podomatic.com/entry/eg/2009-06-24T03_22_59-07_00
A partial transcript of the interview is here:
http://www.examiner.com/x-9554-Portland-Progressive-Examiner~y2009m6d23-Interview-with-British-novelist-Geoff-Nicholson-part-one

____Maggie said...

Yay Rick! You do a review right! :D

I read somewhere that NYT author/reviewers sometimes match the style of the author they are reviewing. I told the story of the little spider because he told the story of his findings on the path just yards from all of LA suburbia (was it a mt. lion or coyote?), but o/c I cannot remember the details. Too many books under the bridge and down stream since then. :)

I'm thrilled you enjoyed the book!