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The Lost Art of Walking: The History,…

The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of…

by Geoff Nicholson

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This seems like an odd topic to write a whole book about, but Mr. Nicholson manages to make it both informative and entertaining. I have never thought to look at walking in such a diverse way. Mr. Nicholson not only discussed walking in art, movies, songs, literature and history, but also writes about phenomenal feats of walking. All that interspersed with his personal anecdotes. Although about two very different forms of foot travel I think I can safely put this book on par with Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

I so thoroughly enjoyed this book and Mr. Nicholson’s writing style that next time I am in a bookstore I am going to stroll over and check out the others he has written.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
A ramble through the author's memory of he walks he has taken over his life, from his early forays in his home town of Sheffield in England's industrial north, to more recent walks through upmarket Beverley Hills.

Walking in Beverley Hills is quiet, in New York, as part of a psychogeography conference, is slightly disappointing, and in England, he gets wet, although that wouldn't surprise the knowledgeable walker or reader. Nicholson also ties in his walking and walking memories with recollections of what was happening at the time, either within his own life or in the greater world. So, we find out that he was on a walking holiday in the California desert when her mother died, that most of his boyhood friends in Sheffield were felt up by old lechers, and that he proposed to his now wife while walking in New York.

Nicholson also manages to namecheck every reference to walking in popular culture and the history of walking as competitive sport. We read a potted history of the Wandering Jew, the 19th Century Leatherman and "Nude Descending a Staircase". We witness Nicholson recalling every famous cinema walking scene ("Midnight Cowboy", Cary Grant's last film "Walk, Don't Run" and "Saturday Night Fever" all get a Guernsey" and a melange of walking events, including those attempted to win a bet.

There's nothing brilliant here but the author's humour is enough to keep the pages turning. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Mar 31, 2015 |
Lovely book which sees Nicholson riffing on walking drawing on insights from musicians, writers and thinkers. Wonderful. ( )
  xander_paul | Aug 4, 2014 |
Geoff Nicholson takes on the quotidian topic of walking, something just about everyone can do, although there who some who can who fail to exercise the ability regularly. At the heart of this work are Nicholson's own walks. At the time of writing, Nicholson lived in Los Angeles a place generally seen to be hostile to walking although it is possible as I've experienced myself. Nicholson walks in the various places he lives - London, New York, Los Angeles, and in a bittersweet final chapter he returns to walk through his childhood home of Sheffield. In between he explores the history of walking (particularly sport walkers who performed feats of endurance such as walking 1 mile an hour for 1000 consecutive hours), walks in music and movies, psychogeography, walks in the desert, and street photography. There are also walking tours, which are near and dear to my heart, including such oddities as walking tours of parking lots. Nicholson seems to be a cranky person and that crankiness kind of sucks the joy out of his writing. Still this is an interesting book with some intriguing insights into the topic.

Favorite Passages:

"Walking for peace may certainly strike you and me as futile and useless, but if a person believes it works, then it's the most logical and rational thing in the world. To walk for a reason, any reason, however personal or obscure, is surely a mark of rationality. Money, art, self-knowledge, world peace, these are not eccentric motivations for walking; they're damn good ones, regardless of whether or not they succeed. I find myself coming to the conclusion that perhaps the only truly eccentric walker is the one who walks for no reason whatsover. However, I'm no longer sure if that's even possible." - p. 85

"We walked on, not very far and not very fast. It gradually became obvious, and it was not exactly a surprise, that two hours standing around listening to stories, interspersed with rather short walks, of no more than a couple of hundred yards each, was actually very hard work, much harder than walking continuously for two hours. As the tour ended twenty people were rubbing their backs, complaining about their feet, and saying they needed to sit down. I checked my GPS: in those two hours we'd walked just under a mile." - p. 90 ( )
1 vote Othemts | Dec 31, 2011 |
A pedestrian myself, I was happy reading about others, whether they walk for necessity, sport, or eccentricity. Nicholson writes with a slightly dark sense of humor, which I love. Plus I never realized how many songs are about or contain references to walking. ( )
  PensiveCat | Feb 4, 2010 |
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'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,' or so Lao-Tzu, the Chinese Taoist sage, is often quoted as saying.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159448998X, Hardcover)

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 Geoff Nicholson offers his fascinating, definitive, and personal ruminations on the history, science, philosophy, art, and literature 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:53 -0400)

A cultural commentator and author of such works as Sex Collectors and The Food Chain evaluates walking from a range of disciplines to consider how the activity has inspired sporting events, mystical revelations, and artistic legacies.

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