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The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of Pedestrianism Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 20, 2008
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From 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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"A leisurely, entirely delightful ramble through the history and lore of walking."
-"Washington Post Book Review"
"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..."
"Perfect for the armchair walker."
-"The New York Times Book Review"
"Anyone who enjoys excellent nonfiction should enjoy."
?A leisurely, entirely delightful ramble through the history and lore of walking.?
?"Washington Post Book Review"
?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
?Perfect for the armchair walker.?
?"The New York Times Book Review"
?Anyone who enjoys excellent nonfiction should enjoy.?
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Walking in L.A., walking in New York City, and walking in London are also covered. Beyond that, almost any walking topic you can imagine, such as walking on the moon or labyrinth walking, are also touched on.
This may all sound rather dull but it isn't. Nicholson has a lively writing style, though he does get bogged down in a few places. This book is quite fun.
What I ordered this book I hoped to see something on physiology, psychology or philosophy of walking. Instead, this book treats one to a high-speed flow of consciousness - any which thought that flits into the author's mind as he walks goes straight onto the page. The man has an active mind, and the book runs at a pace of a noisy blender.
Now that I had the book in hand, I looked at the dust cover blurbs:
"...demented charm" - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"...not for the faint of heart" - Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.
Wow! When a major reviewer calls a writer demented and the publisher puts that on the back of the book, that is bizzarre, to say the least.
I am sure the author has his audience, and there will be people who'll love this book. Like chewing gum or watching game shows, it will take you away from your life and into another reality. My copy, however, is going right back to amazon.
If you have about four free hours available you could either read this book or go for an extended walk. Provided your surroundings are sufficiently inviting and it is a pleasant day, you may prefer the walk.
Nicholson is not promoting walking as a social cause. He believes we cannot expect grand changes in people's willingness to walk when they have more convenient alternatives available. He says that he himself walks not because it is environmentally correct, but because it keeps him sane and it helps him write.
The book is a ramble, a wandering. Do not expect systematic accounts of the history, science, philosophy, or literature of pedestrianism, as the subtitle suggests. Instead, what you will get is a potpourri of ruminations, many only tangentially related to walking, held together only by the thread of Nicholson's own idiosyncratic preoccupations.
Fortunately, Nicholson seems to be an interesting fellow, one you might want to accompany on a good walk. His polished and lightly humorous essay style keeps things moving.
Some of the author's material comes from his own walks. I found his chapter on walking in Los Angles more compelling than those on New York and London, perhaps partly because walking in Los Angeles is not an activity that is often commended. It will help sustain your interest if you are at least vaguely familiar with his featured locations.
Nicholson also draws from literature, film, music, photography, and painting. A few of his choices may enhance your understanding or appreciation for walking; most likely will not. He writes in an ironic tone about several concept art endeavors that have involved walking, in some cases only marginally, at best.
There is a chapter on the accomplishments of several notable obsessive walkers, the kind whose achievements we might read about in a book of world records (I think it is to Nicholson's credit that he resisted entitling this chapter "Walking Feats"). Unless you are quite well-versed in this history of eccentric walkers already, you will probably be amused or astounded (or both) by at least a few of them.
The book includes a possibly useful bibliography. Nicholson provides the web address if you would like to view over 60 photos (of people, mostly) he has taken on his walks.