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.
Showing posts with label Michel de Certeau. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michel de Certeau. Show all posts

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


I don’t know if you’ve come across Arianna Huffington’s new book Thrive.  It has an initially baffling subtitle “The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder”  Third metric?  Well, apparently it’s a metaphor based on the milking stool – you need that third leg to have a solid foundation.   Although of course when you’re walking you only need two.  But maybe I'm being too literal.

There’s a chapter in the book titled “Walk This Way” (not a reference to Aerosmith and Run DMC as far as I can tell).  Arianna is a great walker apparently.  When she lived in Los Angeles she got many of her best ideas while hiking.  A lot of the planning for the Huffington Post was done on hikes.  When she was pregnant she walked around the grounds of the LA hotel she was staying in.  And no, I don’t know why she was staying in an LA hotel during her pregnancy.  And no, I haven't been able to find a good picture of her walking.

In that walking chapter she quotes Cavafy, Thomas Jefferson, Hemingway, Thoreau and “British author Geoff Nicholson.”  “Words inscribe a text in the same way that a walk inscribes space,” he says.  “Writing is one way of making the world our own, and … walking is another.”

Naturally I’m not going to argue with that, since I wrote it, but I thought it might be instructive to point out that the quotation in full runs, “Modern literary theory sees a similarity between walking and writing that I find persuasive: words inscribe a text in the same way that a walk inscribes space. In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel De Certeau writes, 'The act of walking is a process of appropriation of the topographical system on the part of the pedestrian; it is a special acting-out of the place ... and it implies relations among differentiated positions.' I think this is a fancy way of saying that writing is one way of making the world our own, and that walking is another.”  Arianna must have thought that even mentioning De Certeau was too fancy.  That's him below, walking.

Oh, and if you think I’m being a little presumptuous by referring to Ms. Huffington as Arianna – trust me, we’re on first name terms.  She sent me an advanced proof copy of her book, along with this card:

Online evidence suggests it’s her actual signature.  That’s what I call attention to detail.  I also read on her Twitter feed, and elsewhere, that she describes herself as a “flat shoe advocate” – well nobody’s perfect.