Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


If you go to the Goodreads quotation site, you’ll find this: “Words inscribe a text in the same way that a walk inscribes space. Writing is one way of making the world our own, and . . . walking is another.” – Geoff Nicholson
I’ll gladly stand by this, though I’m actually more or less paraphrasing Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life.  It's hard to find a good picture of de Certeau walking, but here he is apparently standing about in field, and I suppose he must have done at least some walking to get there.  But are you really sure about that scarf, Mike?

Meanwhile a correspondent, Jane Freeman – she’s an artist, you could check her out - draws my attention to a quotation form Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria, in which he’s actually talking about essay-writing, but I think it has a wider application: “The reader should be carried forward, not merely, or chiefly, by the mechanical impulse of curiosity, or by a restless desire to arrive at the final solution; but by the pleasurable activity of mind, excited by the attractions of the journey itself. Like the motion of a serpent, which the Egyptians made the emblem of intellectual power; or like the path of sound through the air; at every step he pauses, and half recedes, and, from the retrogressive movement, collects the force which again carries him onward.”

No walking there, obviously, although we know Coleridge was quite the pedestrian – check out “The Devil’s Walk” – written with Robert Southey.  

And did you know that Kate Moss now lives in Coleridge’s old house in Highgate?  No, neither did I.

The Coleridge quotation corresponds somehow with a couple of paragraphs I recently found in John Berger’s Another Way of Telling.  He writes, “The dog came out of the forest is a simple statement.  When that story is followed by The man left the door open, the possibility of a narrative has begun.  If the tense of the second sentence is changed into The man had left the door open, the possibility becomes almost a promise.  Every narrative proposes an agreement about the unstated but assumed connections existing between events …
“No story is like a wheeled vehicle whose contact with the road is continuous.  Stories walk, like animals and men. And their steps are not only between narrated events but between each sentence, sometimes each word. Every step is a stride over something not said.”
      This is Berger walking with Tilda Swinton in Quincy, the town where he lives, in France.

Photo: Sandro Kopp/Berlinale

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