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Wanderlust: A History of Walking

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This volume provides a history of walking, exploring the relationship between thinking and walking and between walking and culture. The author argues for the preservation of the time and space in which to walk in an ever more car-dependent and accelerated world.


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This volume provides a history of walking, exploring the relationship between thinking and walking and between walking and culture. The author argues for the preservation of the time and space in which to walk in an ever more car-dependent and accelerated world.

30 review for Wanderlust: A History of Walking

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog. Expansive and engaging, Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust explores the history of walking in the West. Starting with Rousseau and the Romantics, Solnit argues, walking became self-conscious, and against the backdrop of the French Revolution and industrialization, the act started to accrue dynamic, democratic, and subversive cultural meanings it had never before held in Western societies. The author historicizes walking as My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog. Expansive and engaging, Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust explores the history of walking in the West. Starting with Rousseau and the Romantics, Solnit argues, walking became self-conscious, and against the backdrop of the French Revolution and industrialization, the act started to accrue dynamic, democratic, and subversive cultural meanings it had never before held in Western societies. The author historicizes walking as a conscious cultural act and considers the many forms the act takes today, from pilgrimages and marches to walkathons and urban strolls; simultaneously, she politicizes the experience of walking, questioning how it’s impacted by the walker’s social identities. All the while, the author analyzes the literature of walking and reviews the role walking played in the lives of famous thinkers and activists. While packed with information, Solnit’s prose is lyrical and moving, her work associative in structure and easy to read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Venessa

    Affirmation of Pedestrianism For those of you who don't know me as well as you think you do, I'll start by saying that I have never owned a car, and have not been behind the wheel of one in over 12 years; I bicycle in nice weather but my preferred mode of transportation is walking. So, I just finished the book Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit and think it is one of the greatest books ever written. I was partial to two of the last chapters, one about women and walking and the othe Affirmation of Pedestrianism For those of you who don't know me as well as you think you do, I'll start by saying that I have never owned a car, and have not been behind the wheel of one in over 12 years; I bicycle in nice weather but my preferred mode of transportation is walking. So, I just finished the book Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit and think it is one of the greatest books ever written. I was partial to two of the last chapters, one about women and walking and the other about the decline of pedestrianism due to automobilization and suburbanization but really, the whole damn book is great: a work of art from start to finish. Solnit does exactly what the sub title describes: traces a history of walking from the early philosophers and romantics to modern peripatetics like myself, who are disturbingly and increasingly in decline. In this modern world we inhabit nowadays, I knew walking is considered subversive, nonconformist, and even controversial, yet until I read Wanderlust I didn't realize it was even more so back in the day: walkers were often {and still are} seen as lower and working class because, heaven forbid, why would you choose to walk among and in the filth of the city {or the mud of the country} when you could be enclosed and away from it in a horse drawn carriage or the modern carriage that is called the automobile? Women who walked were often arrested, as no respectable woman would go un-escorted into the mean streets of midnight; some women were thus victims of "surgical rape" as doctors forcibly inserted medical instruments to make sure their hymens were intact and they weren't lying about not being street walkers {throughout the book Solnit peppers her prose with numerous terms that have originated with walking, not just those relating to women who have throughout history tried to take back the night}. Members of the counterculture walked and still walk, from Whitman and Ginsberg, to prolific protesters who march for their numerous causes. Artists use walking to express themselves visually, such as Robert Smithson's 1,500-foot-long Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake. Famous cities of walkers such as New York and Paris are explored, as well as the entire country of England; famous solitary walkers such as Thoreau and Rousseau are celebrated as well as companion pedestrians such as Dorothy and William Wordsworth. Urban and rural walking and their unique characteristics are covered but not contained. Inspired by this book, I have checked out books from the library by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and have continued my proud walks around the city of Buffalo, welcoming Spring and impatient for Summer, when my wandering without purpose rambles will become more frequent, as I walk with purpose daily, but it's undeniably more pleasant to walk without purpose in warmer weather.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rachelfm

    I really wanted to like this book much more than I did, and kept waiting for it to get good. I want to also acknowledge at the outset that it languished on my Kindle for about 8 months as I got through it 1% of the time at a very plodding pace. Whenever I'd be stuck someplace with nothing else to read and go, "Ugh, fine, I'll work on the dang walking book again." I'm not sure I'd have been so committed if it hadn't been one of my Your Next 5 Books at the Seattle Public Library. I originally got I really wanted to like this book much more than I did, and kept waiting for it to get good. I want to also acknowledge at the outset that it languished on my Kindle for about 8 months as I got through it 1% of the time at a very plodding pace. Whenever I'd be stuck someplace with nothing else to read and go, "Ugh, fine, I'll work on the dang walking book again." I'm not sure I'd have been so committed if it hadn't been one of my Your Next 5 Books at the Seattle Public Library. I originally got it because one of my subgoals last year was to read 60 books written by women. Also, as one who has been car-free or car-lite my whole life, I've got some pedestrian street cred and often want to literarily bump fists with my peeps, as it were. I guess my issues with under-enthusiasm are these: 1) The history of walking seems to start with romanticism. I have uneven feelings about that time, and so it's hard to really jam on that point. 2) There are times when an author's personal experiences and observations on a subject, her own personal encounter with the matter at hand, truly enhance the narrative. In fairness, most of the author's experiences walking describe Paris, San Francisco and the deserts in the American West. I'm not sure that there are three places that I would connect with less on an imaginative level, but I'm sort of a crank. At any rate, I found it a bit distracting to dip into her life after I'd been chewing my cud on the Lake District, so to speak. a) Writing about walking in Paris almost inevitably results in the injudicious overuse of the word flâneur. b) Some of the writing about the desert walking was pretty interesting, especially the AFL-CIO strike in Las Vegas and the walk to Los Angeles. However, (cranky) I'm always hyperaware of anything American desert-y that strays into "the crystals led me to a spirit quest with the Hopi" because OMG, the people you run into in hostels in Santa Fe. 3) One of the author's main points is that walking can be a political and feminist act. There was a lot of discussion of reclaiming public space at the pedestrian scale and to move beyond the idea of women who walk are streetwalkers. That's rad. But this book had SUCH as western perspective. I can't help but think that for the majority of the world's women, walking is NOT an empowering act, because the loads of water and firewood that need to be trekked back home have to be done under the power of women at the exclusion of their own economic and intellectual development. The only really non-western examples that come to mind are some eastern European artists who were walking the Great Wall of China. a)Ugh, also, Philistine alert, but I'm rarely moved by post-modern minimalist performance art. Probably because I'm one of the sheep. But reading about post-modern minimalist performance art about walking was a bit excruciating for my Cro-Magnon brain. b)Isn't this where you'd get some serious mileage (pun intended) waxing poetically about the Montgomery bus boycotts? 4) Some biology about how walking affects us and the differences in bodies of walkers vs. non-walkers would have been interesting. I remember reading a kinesiology study about how the gaits and strides of African women are different, ostensibly because of carrying heavy loads on their heads. 5) It's also possible that when this book was published nearly 15 years ago that ideas about sidewalks and cul-de-sacs and not driving half a mile to do something and public spaces were a bit more fringe-y than they are today. I'm sure I'll give Rebecca Solnit another chance; it's possible that this subject has so many ways to be handled that the path she chose didn't appeal to me. Also, she coined the term "mansplaining," so I'm interested in her cultural commentary.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Doreen

    I expected a lot more from this book and turns out I was terribly disappointed at how superficial and reductive her views of walking are. I don't understand the title: where's the history? It's more of a crib note guide and encomium to the theme of walking as found in Great Books of the Western canon. As soon as I found myself interested in a topic she covered, whether it was the perils of women walking or the role of walking and thinking/writing/philosophizing, I was whisked away like a harried I expected a lot more from this book and turns out I was terribly disappointed at how superficial and reductive her views of walking are. I don't understand the title: where's the history? It's more of a crib note guide and encomium to the theme of walking as found in Great Books of the Western canon. As soon as I found myself interested in a topic she covered, whether it was the perils of women walking or the role of walking and thinking/writing/philosophizing, I was whisked away like a harried mother navigating her child through a crowded supermarket. yes, she seems v. well read but where's the substance, the argument, the understanding of why we should care about concepts/theories/aesthetics/problematics of walking as seen through the eyes of Western writers (predominantly race and class privileged men of letters)? She only touches on how not everyone gets to be a wanderer or even the notion that walking can be used to oppress, torture, and shame. The author's own perambulations also lack depth, development of character, and understanding of place, they are tableau oriented rather than visceral, exploratory, dirty, gritty, shocking, wondrous, or real. They seem all to be placed in retrospect as a method of writing herself into the Western canon. Descriptions are glossy brochures: they tease only to reveal a shallowness of actual experience of place. Well-read she is but Solnit seems to rely on other writers' ideas to coast her through all the varied topics she takes on. The vignettes of her own walking seem completely separate and whimsical and don't ground the reader as they should in the experience of walking; instead,the prose style obfuscates and dis-orients because it is trying too hard to be lyrical and meaningful. I also dislike the pejorative attitude she has toward the suburbs, communication technologies, car culture, and treadmills. Does she realize what a classist she is? It is an easy target to scoff at people who walk in malls as exercise or go to the gym and use treadmills but it might be better to turn the lens back on one's own freedom to experience walking in Paris as a runaway or camping out in the desert to protest nukes and examine one's own entitlement. Not everyone can live in urban environments nor do they want to. Many new immigrants and working class Americans move to the suburbs to provide better education and opportunities for their chilren--yes it may appear as if the suburbs lack 'culture' in a Matthew Arnold kind of way but surprisingly there are also opportunities for walking and exploring as my own childhood in northern New Jersey attests to. If you read this book, beware of the broad stroke assumptions that underlie much of the discussion. Preferred walking spaces being urban/rural is one of them. that we should take what we know as a walking tradition primarily from canonical writers is another.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    This was my second time reading this book, and I feel as ambivalent about it as I did the first time through. There is just so much in here that it feels a bit overwhelming. Here are two of the notes I made while reading: June 9 ~~ First chapter was about philosophers and walking. A bit dull. Second was about how and why humans began to walk in the first place, and the debate was still raging at the time she wrote. That was more interesting. Now I am on a chapter about pilgrimages, which is anoth This was my second time reading this book, and I feel as ambivalent about it as I did the first time through. There is just so much in here that it feels a bit overwhelming. Here are two of the notes I made while reading: June 9 ~~ First chapter was about philosophers and walking. A bit dull. Second was about how and why humans began to walk in the first place, and the debate was still raging at the time she wrote. That was more interesting. Now I am on a chapter about pilgrimages, which is another type of walking altogether. And she complains that at a slow pace or just standing still her feet hurt. I hear you, girl! The hardest thing to do is walk at someone else's slower pace. June 12 ~~ Chapters on walking and philosophy. Chapters on how we began to walk in the first place and what it meant. Chapters on pilgrimages. Chapters on Wordsworth and the beginning of walking as a leisure activity. And yet another chapter about Wordsworth, who seems to have been responsible for many things regarding that movement. But honestly, it is all a bit dry. I am a walker. Have been since I was a kid and used to zip down to the corner store on Sundays to buy a paper and lug it home. Three mile round trip and wonderful fun. Since then I have walked many more miles for fun, in competitions, to explore, and to keep myself healthy. And while I can appreciate the author's general idea here, it was very hard to slog through all the information she shared. It was like doing a 6-Day Ultramarathon in an area where the course is a little rockier than is good for you. At first you try to miss the stones but after a time you are tired and end up stomping on them every few strides. It hurts. It's work. And I don't always like to work when I'm walking, or when I'm reading. I have to be in the proper frame of mind to exercise my brain as much as I needed to do for this book. So if I wait until Someday when I am feeling scholarly and intellectual and high-browed, would I like this better? I did enjoy seeing names of some authors I recognized and others who are on my reading lists. This is a very literary walking book, tracing the history of walking by the writing that has been done about it over the centuries. I cannot imagine the amount of research it took to dig up all of this information and tie it all together. So kudos to Solnit for the work. And thanks are due also because I have been introduced to Dorothy Wordsworth, William's sister who kept journals of all the walking she did. Apparently he swiped many ideas and images from her pages for his poetry, and even though I am not as familiar with his work as I probably should be if I were a true intellectual, I am very interested to read Dorothy's journals and see if I can recognize anything there. I also appreciated the introduction to New York poet Frank O'Hara, and I have his poems on my lists now too. So I feel I did get some rewards for keeping myself staggering along to the finish line here. Well, almost to the end. my feet and my brain hurt too much to face the rocky fields of those last few chapters. Maybe Someday I'll give this book one more walk through. Or I might just send it off on a walkabout of its own. We'll see.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Thanks to my upbringing, to summers in the woods and weekend forest walks all year long with Father and the dog, I've always enjoyed walking, particularly in nature, especially over new terrain, but even through the neighborhoods of cities. Thanks to the ageing of my peers and, with such, their increased responsibilies and increasing incidences of disability, I've had less opportunity to do so in company and, so, less inclination. A dog, a good dog, would help, but I live in an apartment, in a c Thanks to my upbringing, to summers in the woods and weekend forest walks all year long with Father and the dog, I've always enjoyed walking, particularly in nature, especially over new terrain, but even through the neighborhoods of cities. Thanks to the ageing of my peers and, with such, their increased responsibilies and increasing incidences of disability, I've had less opportunity to do so in company and, so, less inclination. A dog, a good dog, would help, but I live in an apartment, in a city, the cabin in the woods is gone, and having the kind of dog who'd be a good companion would not be appropriate for these urban environs. Thus I borrow dogs and children, if I can get them, and try to find new friends as interested in adventure as I am. It's not just the walking, nor is it simply the adventure of new routes and new sights, it's also conversation. One can listen to almost anything on a good walk and not become bored--and if the conversation flags, there are always the sights, the impulsive decisions to alter direction or duck into a new storefront. Besides, a good walk is a matter of hours, even a whole day, and is consequently conducive to sufficient treatments of subjects, something which rarely happens in ordinary, chair-bound, oft-distracted conversation. This book was given me by a cafe friend, cafes being my home-away-from-home and the primary place where I make new acquaintances--and read for that matter. She's done three (she claims more--see note) walks with me, both purposive, neither long enough, but still most appreciated. Out of pity, perhaps with some sympathy, she gave this book to me as a consolation. Author Solnit understands all this and much more. Wanderlust ends with an appreciation of walking--and indictments of atomized suburban car-culture--but the bulk of it consists of meditations on themes related to walking. There's a history of a sort of one aspect of environmentalism, a history of sorts of parks, of street demonstrations, of street walkers, of peripatetic philosophers and of mountaineering--none of them exhaustive, none of them quite long enough, but all suggestive. I hadn't, when I received this book, thought to expect much of it. "Walking? What is there to say about walking?" I wondered. Now I wish Solnit had said more, a bit about arctic trudges perhaps, about the travels and travails of the disabled, about the riparian rights of strollers... Note: In Woody Allen's Annie Hall there's a representation of the respective visits of himself and his girlfriends to their therapists. He complains about the lack of sex. She complains of the constant sex.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    I can imagine that some people are disappointed in this book, because it offers no conventional overview of the history of walking. It's more a collection of musings and digressions about all kinds of cultural-historical aspects of our civilization that are directly or indirectly linked with hiking: protest marches as secular successor of pilgrimages, the care for the environment, the harmful effect of suburbanisation, the relationship between female emancipation and hiking, the relationship bet I can imagine that some people are disappointed in this book, because it offers no conventional overview of the history of walking. It's more a collection of musings and digressions about all kinds of cultural-historical aspects of our civilization that are directly or indirectly linked with hiking: protest marches as secular successor of pilgrimages, the care for the environment, the harmful effect of suburbanisation, the relationship between female emancipation and hiking, the relationship between democratization and hiking, and so on. In between you'll indeed find elements that make possible a reconstruction of the history of walking, but you need to put the puzzle together yourself. I'm sure that Solnit has done this on purpose: her favorite hiking trail is the labyrinth, which she describes as an artificial wilderness and where the final objective also is much less important than the activity. I enjoyed this book, because it is so broad and philosophical, with plenty of interesting critical comments on our culture (from a clearly progressive stance). But at the same time, I also regularly was annoyed with the very specific Californian accents and the sometimes very quirky opinions (for example, about the hypocritical attitude of post modernist artists). On my Kindle I have marked tenths of valuable quotations, of which I offer one of the most interesting: “Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body , to breathing and the beating of the heart . It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling , being and doing . It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts , experiences , arrivals.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    I labored through it. I am a walking addict, and expected a more personal connection with the author. While Ms. Solnit did include numerous examples of personal walks, I was not able to hang with her and see the countryside, inner or outer. This is more a book about philosophers and famous literary and artistic personalities that just happened to be walkers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Morris

    I know I gave this five stars, but I do have to get my one problem with this book out of the way. Wanderlust, in all that it manages to cover, does not even mention Japanese haibun, a literary form that merges short prose and haiku. This is important because many of these writings came out of long walking tours and travel accounts. Not mentioning Basho's Narrow Road to the Interior seems a crime to me. That omission out of the way, I can still say that this is a terrific book, covering a lot of g I know I gave this five stars, but I do have to get my one problem with this book out of the way. Wanderlust, in all that it manages to cover, does not even mention Japanese haibun, a literary form that merges short prose and haiku. This is important because many of these writings came out of long walking tours and travel accounts. Not mentioning Basho's Narrow Road to the Interior seems a crime to me. That omission out of the way, I can still say that this is a terrific book, covering a lot of ground, surprising even to me as a walker. From the English walking gardens to Las Vegas' disappearing public space, Solnit manages to weave history, literature, politics and more on the subject of walking. Solnit shows that walking was more than a mode of transportation "back then," but part of the method of meditation and rumination for many philosophers, writers, and artists; a form of protest; and the way one most intensely experiences the world. She also looks at the politics of walking and argues persuasively that walking has been denigrated over the years and much rests on the fight, not only for public space, but for the time to pursue this simple, but important act. But Wanderlust is not a manifesto. It is filled with fascinating stories about the people and places where this history continues to be written. And even for me, one who has found great value, in the simple walk, has inspired me to make it not just part of the exercise routine, but an integral part of lifestyle.

  10. 5 out of 5

    El

    I don't believe much in New Years' Resolutions as I prefer to do my self-improvement periodically throughout the year and not limit myself to a specific time in which to accomplish a goal. However, we are about 25 days away from moving into a new neighborhood, a safer neighborhood, and I am looking forward to being more active again - my boyfriend bought me a bike for Christmas 2007 and I have yet to be able to take it out, we'll be a few blocks away from a dog park, we can walk to the tennis co I don't believe much in New Years' Resolutions as I prefer to do my self-improvement periodically throughout the year and not limit myself to a specific time in which to accomplish a goal. However, we are about 25 days away from moving into a new neighborhood, a safer neighborhood, and I am looking forward to being more active again - my boyfriend bought me a bike for Christmas 2007 and I have yet to be able to take it out, we'll be a few blocks away from a dog park, we can walk to the tennis courts and not have to drive, and I'll be walking distance from everything I need which is ideal as I am a non-driver. Rebecca Solnit's history of walking drew me in. She took a cultural, historical, philosophical, literary, social, political, feminist, green and eco-friendly approach to the dying art and experience of walking. When put in contexts such as those I found it to be very interesting and I am even more eager to move and begin walking. At times her lengthy essay seemed to be a bit of a stretch in order to flesh out her thesis, though the individual chapters were fascinating in and of themselves. Unfortunately as a whole in the light of walking I felt myself zoning out mentally from time to time. Still I mostly forgive her thanks to her references to Dante, Edith Wharton, Emma Goldman and the Prague Spring revolution of 1968. If she would have thrown in Bon Jovi, my heart would have been hers wholly.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Phenomenal. Discursive, well-read, full of broad and rambling scholarship. Some chapters are literary criticism, some scientific, some urban planning history, some religious. One heartbreaking moment made me realize the book was published in precisely 2000—no later, no earlier. Less personal than A Field Guide to Getting Lost, but that's not this book's purpose.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    More than a history of walking, this is an excuse for Solnit to write about things she's interested in: literature she enjoys, turn of the century prostitutes, urban planning, landscape painting, National Parks, shrubberies. The book itself is an unplanned walk, following trails that often veer off in unexpected directions or circle back to themselves, and thus feels less like a history than a collection of essays inspired by the act of walking. There are gems to be taken to heart, such as... Thin More than a history of walking, this is an excuse for Solnit to write about things she's interested in: literature she enjoys, turn of the century prostitutes, urban planning, landscape painting, National Parks, shrubberies. The book itself is an unplanned walk, following trails that often veer off in unexpected directions or circle back to themselves, and thus feels less like a history than a collection of essays inspired by the act of walking. There are gems to be taken to heart, such as... Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals. and... Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors — home, car, gym, office, shops — disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it. It makes me want to really enjoy walking. Sometimes I do. I recently moved closer to work and I walk on the pleasant days and when I do that, I get what Solnit is saying, about occupying the world rather than just several disconnected interior pods. Even more so when you take a walk in the woods. When you run out of gas on a highway in the flat part of Colorado, it's frightening how much you feel that you are occupying the world. But in the three-quarters of each Louisville year that are inhabited by terribly high or low temperatures (and being the large, sweaty man that I am), I'm reminded that walking really sucks. And I know this is the opposite of what I should come away from this book saying, but walking suuuucks.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Kennedy

    "Walking, ideally, is a state of mind in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes finally making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without our being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being lost in our thoughts." "Wanderlust's real pleasures resemble the pleasure of walking. It doesn't systematically press on toward a goal, but savors detail and varied pe "Walking, ideally, is a state of mind in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes finally making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without our being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being lost in our thoughts." "Wanderlust's real pleasures resemble the pleasure of walking. It doesn't systematically press on toward a goal, but savors detail and varied perspectives, stopping to consider the nature of mountaineering, the life of the London streetwalker, the conflict between public right of way and private property in nineteenth-century England and twentieth-century Las Vegas." .....The New York Times

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aravindakshan Narasimhan

    Never thought walking had such a history. We may be familiar with gandhi, martin Luther king's marches. Various protest for various reasons, but the cultural phenomenon of walking from its supposedly Greek origins in peripatetic schools through aristocratic garden walks, to countryside walks by Rousseau, Wordsworth , Thoreau, to latest walkathon it has changed its form and metamorphosed completely. Pilgrimages of christians in new mexico ( santa fe) , paseo and corso ( Spanish speaking parts of Never thought walking had such a history. We may be familiar with gandhi, martin Luther king's marches. Various protest for various reasons, but the cultural phenomenon of walking from its supposedly Greek origins in peripatetic schools through aristocratic garden walks, to countryside walks by Rousseau, Wordsworth , Thoreau, to latest walkathon it has changed its form and metamorphosed completely. Pilgrimages of christians in new mexico ( santa fe) , paseo and corso ( Spanish speaking parts of America and italian respectively ) , flaneurs of Parisian world, mountaineering in sierra niveda to protect the nature from government's so called development agenda, surrealist literature on walking paris to map the body of city through as the female personification, shugendo sect of Buddhism ( banned in 19th century ) - which propounds a philosophy of walking round the mountain as a process to go through six realms of existence, fight for free space in privatised lands by landowners in Uk of 19th century, female vs male history of walking, how suburban planning embodies in it an aversion for a free space to walk( this was one of the best chapters as in it opened my mind to my own surrounding, never saw suburban in this light which is true too).. This is a just a few drops from the book. Starting from paleontology, biology , philosophy , history, literature, politics and many other diverse fields this book investigates the declining phenomenon which has defined the humanity for its entire breath. P.S: As myself a bit of romantic and flaneur type, While this whole week I got up early and strolled my dull and bustling locality early morning and discovered idyllic sites which evoked the peace of nature in me ( the crimson red sunrise falling on the river as I first discovered the place) as well the dull suburban spaces ( very near to the above, the above is anomally perhaps) which intimidates walkers even as early as 6 am. Also paced back and forth in the home( like Wittgenstein and Wordsworth and child Kierkegaard) daily while reading the book , to the extent that only 2 hours at the maximum were spent in sitting. So that I could orient myself to the rhythm of the topic of the book. While walking for hours together You body rejoices the momentary standing While the body is standing without end You yearn and bask when the moment allows you to sit When you sit for hours together You may want to lie back and rest And then ? I will leave you with a quote: A few years earlier another insurrection found a square for its stage. The saga of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo began when these women started to notice each other at the police stations and government offices, making the same fruitless inquiries after children who had been “disappeared” by agents of the brutal military junta that seized power in 1976. “Secrecy,” writes Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, “was a hallmark of the junta’s Dirty War. . . . In Argentina the abductions were carried out beneath a veneer of normalcy so that there would be no outcry, so that the terrible reality would remain submerged and elusive even to the families of the abducted.” Mostly homemakers with little education and no political experience, these women came to realize that they had to make the secret public, and they pursued their cause with a stunning lack of regard for their own safety. On April 30, 1977, fourteen mothers went to the Plaza de Mayo in the center of Buenos Aires. It was the place where Argentinean independence had been proclaimed in 1810 and where Juan Perón had given his populist speeches, a plaza at the heart of the country. Sitting there was, a policeman shouted, tantamount to holding an illegal meeting, and so they began walking around the obelisk in the center of the plaza. There and then, wrote a Frenchman, the generals lost their first battle and the Mothers found their identity. It was the plaza that gave them their name, and their walks there every Friday that made them famous. “Much later,” writes Bouvard, “they described their walks as marches, not as walking, because they felt that they were marching toward a goal and not just circling aimlessly. As the Fridays succeeded one another and the numbers of Mothers marching around the plaza increased, the police began to take notice. Vanloads of policemen would arrive, take names, and force the Mothers to leave.” Attacked with dogs and clubs, arrested and interrogated, they kept returning to perform this simple act of remembrance for so many years that it became ritual and history and made the name of the plaza known around the world. They marched carrying photographs of those children mounted like political placards on sticks or hung around their neck, and wearing white kerchiefs embroidered with the names of their disappeared children and the dates of their disappearances (later they were embroidered instead, “Bring Them Back Alive”). “They tell me that, while they are marching they feel very close to their children,” wrote the poet Marjorie Agosin, who walked with them. “And the truth is, in the plaza where forgetting is not allowed, memory recovers its meaning.” For years these women taking the national trauma on a walk were the most public opposition to the regime. By 1980 they had created a network of mothers around the country, and in 1981 they began the first of their annual twenty-four-hour marches to celebrate Human Rights Day (they also joined religious processions around the country). “By this time the Mothers were no longer alone during their marches; the Plaza was swarming with journalists from abroad who had come to cover the strange phenomenon of middle-aged woman marching in defiance of a state of siege.” When the military junta fell in 1983, the Mothers were honored guests at the inauguration of the newly elected president, but they kept up their weekly walks counterclockwise around the obelisk in the Plaza de Mayo, and the thousands who had been afraid before joined them. They still walk counterclockwise around the tall obelisk every Thursday. Post P.S ( first time came across the word in this book): I wish I had a written a detailed review. This book deserves one.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sunny

    I loved this book. If I was told 20 years ago that 20 years later I would be reading a book about the history of walking and giving it 5 stars I would have told my future self to get a life! The book is a study of walking from the past to the present. It looked at walking in a number of different angles (walking as a form of demonstration, walking for pleasure, fitness, walking as art etc) but ultimately it made me get of my butt and do some walking myself much to my wife’s annoyance who has bee I loved this book. If I was told 20 years ago that 20 years later I would be reading a book about the history of walking and giving it 5 stars I would have told my future self to get a life! The book is a study of walking from the past to the present. It looked at walking in a number of different angles (walking as a form of demonstration, walking for pleasure, fitness, walking as art etc) but ultimately it made me get of my butt and do some walking myself much to my wife’s annoyance who has been telling me to do the same things for years! This is what I love about books like these; they make you act / react and in that they change you. The book was really well written and very easy to read. Rebecca is a clearly gifted writer. The book covered other interesting topic areas such as the link between thinking and walking, the use of walking by poets and great writers, labyrinths, gardens, mountain walking, walking clubs, and walking in cities not designed for walking, night walkers, walking in gay Paris and treadmills. Some of my best bits from the book: • GM Trevelyan said that “I have 2 doctors, my left leg and my right.” • A lot of large American cities are becoming more and more focussed around commercial activities and where cities would have plazas at the centre which encouraged walking and were designed in the past with the pedestrians in mind, the rise of the automobiles has led to the eradication of these walking zones. Where people could walk from one place to another and meet and interact as we have been designed to do, we have now been replaced with automobiles who only beep at each other and occasionally flash a light in anger. • The Mothers of Plaza Mayo in Argentina was an exquisite example of the power of walking and the effects that had on the country and even globally now. When a brutal military junta had seized power in Argentina in 1976 a lot of children started to go missing. On April 30 1977 a group of 14 mothers gathered in the plaza de mayo in the centre of Buenos Aires and began walking around an obelisk in the centre. They would get intimidated and even arrested by the junta police but they didn’t give up and slowly over time their anti-clockwise walking in the Plaza attracted more and more mothers. They came there every Friday and now their walk is known around the world and they still walk around there even though the junta fell many years ago. • Women in Greek times were not apparently allowed to walk as much as the men were. It says that women were thought to lack self-control and could not maintain secure boundaries for themselves which was therefore controlled by the physical walls in which they were contained. Roman women on the other hand were given a lot more freedom and tended to have a much greater role in society. It said that women in Greek times, were not able to maintain these internal boundaries because of their fluid sexuality which endlessly overflowed and disrupted not only themselves but men also. This sounded partly Islamic in the thinking and I couldn’t help thinking that the walls of the house in Greece would have been the equivalent of the Burkini today. • On 15 September 1830, the first steam engine took off between Manchester and Liverpool. I find it hard to believe but on this pivotal day a member of parliament was killed and run down on the opening ceremony! • The most mind blowing story of the whole book was about the performance artists Marina Abramovic and Ulay. They both started at opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and had initially decided to meet at the centre of the 4000 km distance and get married but their relationship had deteriorated so they decided to meet at the centre and then go their separate ways. The walk took place in 1988. They didn’t meet again till march 31st 2010, 22 years later, when this happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OS0Tg... Stunning book; massively recommened.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Desi

    At last! (Of course it took me a few days to be able to mark it read as well.) I appreciate this book so much, in no small part because it brought together so many different facets of my own life and how I think about the spaces I move about in the world. One night, last week, as I was nearing the end, I put the book down and turned out the light, and so many thoughts were swirling in my head that I couldn't fall asleep. My internal orientation as a walker didn't happen until I was a young adult, At last! (Of course it took me a few days to be able to mark it read as well.) I appreciate this book so much, in no small part because it brought together so many different facets of my own life and how I think about the spaces I move about in the world. One night, last week, as I was nearing the end, I put the book down and turned out the light, and so many thoughts were swirling in my head that I couldn't fall asleep. My internal orientation as a walker didn't happen until I was a young adult, and I didn't understand it at the time, but while I was on my semester abroad in Moscow, a fellow student talked about how he just liked to pick a neighborhood or area of the city and walk it. I thought, what an interesting idea, and I tried it. And since then my most favorite thing to do in a city is to simply walk it and to be in it. When I have been able to travel for work, to NY, London, Montreal, Philadelphia, I use what free time I have simply to walk. But it is not just the city either, and this book engaged me for the way it framed my orientation toward being in and walking through natural environments as the result of a cultural evolution. I'm not doing any of Solnit's insights justice in my early morning ramblings, frantically trying to get these thoughts down in the space between when my son wakes up, F emerges from the shower, and the house guest rambles upstairs to chat. So I will leave my thoughts with a few passages I flagged along the way. "A lone walker is both present and detached from the world around, more than an audience, but less than a participant. Walking assuages or legitimizes this alienation: one is mildly disconnected because one is walking, not because one is incapable of connecting." (p. 24) "As the walls come down, the proposes that there is already an order in nature and that it is in harmony with the 'natural' society enjoying such gardens. The growing taste for ruins, mountains, torrents, for situations provoking fear and melancholy, and for artwork about all these things that suggests that life had become so placidly pleasant for England's privileged that they could bring back as entertainment the terrors people had once strived so hard to banish." (p. 91) -->N.B. HG is now sitting with me at the table going on about his reading habits and his lit professor in college even though I am typing and trying my best to focus on the thing that I am doing. But it now appears my detached state and not-so-timely-nods have compelled him elsewhere. But dammit, the cat is now sitting right next to my hand and will likely scratch me .... AND now my kid is awake..... "There is a subtle state most dedicated urban walkers

  17. 4 out of 5

    Yigitalp Ertem

    The book starts with 24 epigraphs, you estimate how many references would be given in the actual essays. It’s the far most comprehensive text I’ve read on the history of walking. The last collection of essays I’ve read was David Le Breton’s In Praise of Walking which cannot draw near to Solnit’s book. She contains and surpasses Le Breton. Wanderlust starts with a pretty subjective form in the first chapter where Solnit opens up her personal passion for walking as an action in her personal life tha The book starts with 24 epigraphs, you estimate how many references would be given in the actual essays. It’s the far most comprehensive text I’ve read on the history of walking. The last collection of essays I’ve read was David Le Breton’s In Praise of Walking which cannot draw near to Solnit’s book. She contains and surpasses Le Breton. Wanderlust starts with a pretty subjective form in the first chapter where Solnit opens up her personal passion for walking as an action in her personal life that reaches up to the anti-nuclear protests, spatio-temporal contemplations, resistance against productivity-freak society, critique of anti-democratic city planning that subjugates the public spaces and coop people up in private ones. However, there were so many descriptions and prose about the roads Solnit walks which made me think of the rest of the book as a referenced-travelogue which combines some attributions to the famous walkers while telling her own, personal walking history. I noticed that I was wrong, as the book unwraps, Solnit leaps from the philosophers to wanderers; history of gardens (one of my favourite historiography as a non-European) to mountain tops; walking-related record holders to marches, protests, pilgrims; from the evolutionary discourses on walking humans (weirdest part); from Dickens to Abramovic; combinations of trains-cars-planes and suburbs-sun tanning-treadmills, from New Mexico to England and then to Paris and finally reaches Las Vegas. Solnit’s historical analyses of walking in relation to class, gender, mode of production gives great insights about how we think about walking today and what are the sources of these ideas. The hazard of that wide and loaded compilation is chucking away the reader with some subjectively non-interesting passages. For example, the parts about mountaineering did not interest me that much because I’m mostly interested in urban walks. Nevertheless, someone else may think the opposite and the reader always has the right to skip -which I didn’t. Last but not least, I enjoyed and learned a lot while reading Solnit’s feminist interventions after referencing twenty male authors about a subject. First she criticizes the authors with a witty and dark tone and proceeds with a political, historical and intellectual analysis of the era where referenced authors live and produce their ideas. The part where she criticizes and makes fun of the authors who both love walking and preaching sermons to the readers (i.e. ‘one should always walk alone’) and the pages where she subverts male authors’ memoirs (Kerouac) by replacing them with a female wanderer are exhilarating. With a hope to encounter with Solnit in a crowded, rainwashed, neon-lit city at night,

  18. 5 out of 5

    Magdelanye

    Anyone truly possessed by wanderlust will find a compelling companion in the slightly rambunctious, delightful perambulation through the archaeology of walking. RS strikes a crisp rhythm, interlacing backstories, personal anecdote and historical reference, never lingering overlong but leaving intriguing signposts for the interested reader to follow. I suppose I could sigh over routes not covered, but by the end of this journey I felt enriched and glad for the erudite and generous company. I did ha Anyone truly possessed by wanderlust will find a compelling companion in the slightly rambunctious, delightful perambulation through the archaeology of walking. RS strikes a crisp rhythm, interlacing backstories, personal anecdote and historical reference, never lingering overlong but leaving intriguing signposts for the interested reader to follow. I suppose I could sigh over routes not covered, but by the end of this journey I felt enriched and glad for the erudite and generous company. I did have a hard time with the ribbon that unwinds at the bottom of each page, like a scroll on a television. At first I tried to keep up with it but abandoned it before too long as a distraction. In theory a fun idea but not so functional a side path.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sunil

    An amazing testament to and on Walking. Perhaps the best book on walking I have read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shira

    Edit 11-01'18: make that 3 * for sure! After reading another book, partly about walking, that used Solnits book as a source & inspiration, I couldn't help not to think about this book and value all that research that was done. Unfortunately I'm quite happy to be finished with this book. I won't get into much detail of all that Rebecca Solnit discusses here. Parts were interesting and fascinating, sure. Especially how walking can be, and is used as political and social criticism (and how the Edit 11-01'18: make that 3 * for sure! After reading another book, partly about walking, that used Solnits book as a source & inspiration, I couldn't help not to think about this book and value all that research that was done. Unfortunately I'm quite happy to be finished with this book. I won't get into much detail of all that Rebecca Solnit discusses here. Parts were interesting and fascinating, sure. Especially how walking can be, and is used as political and social criticism (and how the act of walking (I can't even give a good definition of what is implied by 'walking' here) is threatened by many factors). While reading Wanderlust I quickly realised that maybe I wasn't all too eager to read about the history of walking to start with. That doesn't help to get through a very information dense book! I wanted to abandon it many times but purely to proof to myself I could finish this (and because I thought it was a waste to stop halfway... why?), I finished. And honestly, I'm not unhappy about that, afterwards. For I've came across new facts, writers, and ideas - and for that, it was worth a read. I blame my not particularly enjoying the read also for how I read (historical) non-fiction. Word for word, slow, wanting to understand every single phrase (without willing to look up every unknown word - maybe I should). It makes me focus too much on things that might've been clear to me had I read quicker, trying to just grab the main points. Hopefully I'll find myself more comfortably reading books like this in the future. For Wanderlust passed by more as a chore than as a source of new information. Mostly. Some things stuck. If not, I don't know what I would've done with myself (probably go on just the same). 2* (plus a little) - but please go ahead and read it! (If you're interested in the (mostly social and western) history of walking.) Something I thought beautiful and want to remember: "[...] In 1985 and 1986, the Palestinian-British artist Mona Hatoum used the street as a performance space, stenciling footprints containing the word unemployed down streets in Scheffield, as if to make visible the sad secrets of passersby in that economically devastated city [...]" p.273

  21. 4 out of 5

    KimberlyRose

    Attracted to this title because I'm a committed, contented walker, one who is anti-suburbia and never drives, I ordered it from my library straightaway. I wouldn't say I was disappointed, but I was bored more times than engaged by this author's narration style and views, and often her selected topics were so specific to her locales as to appeal only to locals or those interested in visiting. Topics are vast and, depending on the personal interests of each individual reader, range from fascinating Attracted to this title because I'm a committed, contented walker, one who is anti-suburbia and never drives, I ordered it from my library straightaway. I wouldn't say I was disappointed, but I was bored more times than engaged by this author's narration style and views, and often her selected topics were so specific to her locales as to appeal only to locals or those interested in visiting. Topics are vast and, depending on the personal interests of each individual reader, range from fascinating to skip-skip-flip-flip, move along, lady. (For myself, I enjoyed the theories behind humans gaining a two-legged, upright POV; the evolution of different social views about walking (noun and verb) in England--that was insightful and supported many historical novels I've read. It was also refreshing to hear the voice of someone who understood my frustration with the modern world cutting off pedestrians, sometimes making it impossible to live in a community without a car.) The narrator's voice rings a tad annoying (pretentious? dogmatically western?) on occasion. Generally, this is a "it comes and goes" sort of book, one to pick up and read a paragraph or five whenever you feel like a passably stimulating non-fiction thought about walking to ponder. 2.5 stars. Rachelfm has a detailed review, one I found myself nodding enthusiastically along with as I read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    The best part of this book is the early section, which covers the topic of walking in philosophy and literature. Things degrade and wander a bit as things go on, and Solnit's politics start to become obtrusive - she got into thinking about walking as a part of "nuclear freeze" activities, and late in the book is an entire section of abuse directed at suburbs; besides the fact that yes, suburbs are more difficult to walk, it's not really fully at place in this book. Tyler Cowen noted while reading The best part of this book is the early section, which covers the topic of walking in philosophy and literature. Things degrade and wander a bit as things go on, and Solnit's politics start to become obtrusive - she got into thinking about walking as a part of "nuclear freeze" activities, and late in the book is an entire section of abuse directed at suburbs; besides the fact that yes, suburbs are more difficult to walk, it's not really fully at place in this book. Tyler Cowen noted while reading another of Solnit's books that "the ratio of information to page was too low" and that probably applies here too. Still, some decent stuff in here and it certainly seems to be an exhaustive interdisciplinary treatment of the subject.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Risa

    i start reading this & then i stop becuase it creates an unbearable urge to walk. I think this is the consumate book for the walker/thinker/synesthesia (sp?) stricken saunterer.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    History of the conceptualization, idea, & geography of walking. Begins with early modern walking, "rambling" , promenading, pacing, & strolling. Discusses spiritual, political, practical, & even artistic aspects of walking. This is a book I should have read 20 years ago when it first came out, especially the discussions of the political roles of walking or marching & about the modern view of walking's "obsolescence", & the modern city planning decisions that flowed from that History of the conceptualization, idea, & geography of walking. Begins with early modern walking, "rambling" , promenading, pacing, & strolling. Discusses spiritual, political, practical, & even artistic aspects of walking. This is a book I should have read 20 years ago when it first came out, especially the discussions of the political roles of walking or marching & about the modern view of walking's "obsolescence", & the modern city planning decisions that flowed from that view. I've occasionally felt like I've had to justify my walking to others, never realizing that someone had already done the job for me! Wanderlust also made me feel like I should get up and go for a walk more. I feel like I can't recommend this book to anyone, since I feel like I need to recommend it to everyone!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    As someone who takes every opportunity to walk, in part as a way to keep fit and as something I find makes me more meditative, I was very surprised to learn that so much could be said about it. But in "Wanderlust: A History of Walking" the author, Rebecca Solnit talks it in relation to the development of early human ancestors, politics, protest and civil disobedience, social status and much more. It has also given the author an opportunity to cover topics which she is very much interested in. She As someone who takes every opportunity to walk, in part as a way to keep fit and as something I find makes me more meditative, I was very surprised to learn that so much could be said about it. But in "Wanderlust: A History of Walking" the author, Rebecca Solnit talks it in relation to the development of early human ancestors, politics, protest and civil disobedience, social status and much more. It has also given the author an opportunity to cover topics which she is very much interested in. She talks about for instance, how developments in many modern cities have removed public spaces making the process of walking more an issue and by doing so establishing a form of social control. Whilst some parts of the book were if less interest to me, it is still an excellent history of a process which is central to our lives.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    This will be the first book discussed for walking book club.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Philip Cherny

    I enjoyed this read as a great provider of inspirational source material for a subject as banal and ubiquitous as walking, though I am very much already in Rebecca Solnit’s “pro-walking” camp, as I imagine most people who pick up the book would be, so her attempts at persuasion felt gratuitous, preaching to the choir. Fortunately her personal agenda only figures in as a minor aspect of the book, which appears more like an attempt to trace a sort of non-linear history of walking as a cultural and I enjoyed this read as a great provider of inspirational source material for a subject as banal and ubiquitous as walking, though I am very much already in Rebecca Solnit’s “pro-walking” camp, as I imagine most people who pick up the book would be, so her attempts at persuasion felt gratuitous, preaching to the choir. Fortunately her personal agenda only figures in as a minor aspect of the book, which appears more like an attempt to trace a sort of non-linear history of walking as a cultural and bodily phenomenon. I wish I could have been Solnit’s editor for this book (which probably would not have been great for sales, since I never know the meaning of concision and would turn this light read into an unwieldy tome, rife with footnotes!) I couldn’t avoid the nagging sense that this text was substantially lacking content, due to lack of research and/or editor’s paring choices. She did cover much of the basics that I would have included: the development of walking as a leisure activity during the burgeoning of the bourgeoisie, the emergence of pleasure gardens as places to walk in, Ramblers clubs treating walking as an anarchistic political act in response to increasing privatization of land at the turn of the Industrial Revolution, the contentious feminist issue of women in public and the unfortunate lingering vulnerability of women walking at night alone, walking and hiking as a way of appreciating nature, the tradition of walking as a spiritual and religious journey, etcetera. But somehow, her coverage of these topics often felt either cursory or needing more emphasis or assessment of the examples provided. Walking is such a multifaceted topic, so deeply part of the basic human experience, that a comprehensive discussion would prove impossible, but I still feel like this book left a lot of crucial topics to be desired: Topics missing (+ many more links to 99% Invisible): * Race, class, and the black body in public space!!! * Forced marches (the trail of tears, displaced refugees, concentration camps, as depicted in Cynthia Ozick’s “The Shawl” (1981), or Ballard’s Empire of the Sun ), death and injury from walking as torture, zombified walking, sleepwalking * Fitness walking or competitive race walking (though she did discuss gyms, mostly in the pejorative) * Architecture and design of walking, architecture designed for walking: shopping malls, ambulatories, theme parks, attempts of architects to make public spaces more conducive to public gatherings, etc. * Controlling traffic flow, tourism, phenomena such as: overcrowding as in the 2010 Love Parade disaster, the development of traffic signals and crosswalks to coordinate with pedestrians (e.g. “jay walkers” coined by PR guru E. B. Lefferts of automotive interest groups to change the culture around cars, pinning the safety onus on pedestrians), the much-fraught implementation of turnstiles in Venice to curb overflow of tourists * Virtual “walking” in VR, how this disembodied spatial relation of navigation differs from actual walking * Ableist assumptions about walking as a bipedal experience: how ADA added ramps and curb cuts, and how the deaf are advocating for wider sidewalks for more space to sign while walking. * Art of trails and paths (see Robert Moore’s On Trails: An Exploration ) * Nomadic life: jewish peddlers, train hoppers, hitchhikers, nomads, hunter-gatherers, vagabonds, gypsies, carnies and rennies, Celtic clans, etc. Topics needing expansion: * Her chapter on the science of walking, what it does to us neurologically, how/why it developed anthropologically, walking and the body * Her assessment on the connection between walking and religious rites. She did discuss Celtic labyrinths and pilgrimages, but she didn’t mention daily walking meditations of the Benedictines, or how they developed the ambulatory specifically for these walking prayers or recitations. She kept mentioning the Buddhist monks as spiritual walkers, but I wish she went into more detail about the importance of walking in Eastern traditions. * Her expansion on the different types of walking and different reasons for walking (e.g. aimless wandering verses purposeful walking) * Her discussion of the use of walking in modern and contemporary art. Walking is a political act that extends beyond the question of walkable amenities and pedestrian accessibility. In urban spaces it’s often a question of public access: the black body in public space is still controversial in some places, the homeless bum walking into Whole Foods escorted out by security because of the discomfort of his unsightly presence with customers (compare this to the more privileged “vagabond hipster” stereotype), the fact that the first act of violence of all colonialist powers upon a nomadic peoples–be they Native Americans, Irish, Australians, or Africans–is to allot land as private property that can be bought and sold, the vulnerability of women at night walking alone (which she did cover extensively). To her credit, Solnit does mention race and class in her chapter on women in public space, but then she underplays it by arguing that women are the only category of people that are universally discriminated against. It feels to me like the author deliberately avoids discussions of race and class, though she is clearly aware of their existence, and I don’t think she’s merely circumambulating a politically fraught issue out of political correctness. In her section on political marches, she never mentions arguably the most famous historical march of all–MLK’s 1963 March on Washington. Perhaps she just wanted to discuss more obscure political marches, since most of her readers would already be aware of its significance and might find the Velvet Revolution or the mothers of Plaza de Mayo more fascinating (and they are). She does mention MLK much later on in the book, but only as a passing afterthought. I found myself fascinated by some of the questions raised in her chapter on “The Theorists of Bipedalism,” but unfortunately, Solnit discusses more meta-discourse on the personalities of the anthropologists covering the subject of theories as to why humans began to walk on two legs rather than addressing the actual question itself. I also wish she covered more on this body-thought connection, on the neurological associations between motility and thought, and how we think spatially with our kinesthetic-cognitive organ, the brain. We may think with our body as much with our mind, if not more so. I’ve read from Dr. John D. Rately that our "higher" brain functions in the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes (the areas of mind associated with reflective thoughts and judgments) have evolved from movement, and this idea says potentially a lot about the interaction of thoughts and actions, how our sense of objects form our interaction with them. Then there’s this counterintuitive and surprising finding which suggests that actions precede thoughts (e.g., see Bandura, 1986; Locke & Latham, 2002; Neumann et al., 2003 all in the Unconscious Mind article) which seems to undermine our concept of free will, at least cognitively speaking. Also we have the notion of bidirectional feedback, such as the idea in neurology that if you activate a lower level of the brain, you will be priming an upper level, and if you activate a higher level, you will be priming a lower level. E.g. smiling makes you feel happier (motor cortex affecting emotional state) and feeling happier makes you smile. Amy Cuddy writes about this in her research on body language, though I’m a bit of a skeptic of facile quick fixes like starfish pose boosting confidence (and apparently, repeat studies have not been able to replicate her findings). There’s also fascinating research of the physical body as a guiding force for the higher level functions we usually associate with culture. Anthropologists have been theorizing that rituals and image/art-making may precede the development of formal languages in human history. More recently Laura Kehoe at Humboldt University, Berlin discovered different chimps throwing rocks at the same tree in Guinea (leave aside the references to Space Odyssey 2001) and have built what appears to be a cairn around the tree; one (controversial) hypothesis of this strange behavior is that the chimps have developed a ritual around a sacred tree. In sociology Pierre Bordieu’s notion of habitus also puts forward a theory of social practice as governed by the daily embodiment of habits (e.g. the “Fake-it-til-you-make-it” strategy of belief: perform the actions and the thoughts will follow). Similarly Marxist scholar Louis Althusser’s notion of interpellation explains how ideology is reinforced through bodily action, and language: e.g. the very act of hailing one in a street means they take part in a system as a subject. We’ve long been under the spell of Descartes, and his dualistic notion that the body is simply an extension of Cogito, but these examples demonstrate that the body and brain are inextricably bound. If walking stimulates thinking, it’s because thought and action are intimately bound, or at least a confluence occurs. The legacy and tradition of artists who’ve made walking a key component to their work is so exhaustive that it would seem virtually impossible (or at least redundant) to supply a wholly comprehensive list, but I feel the author could have expanded more in her section on art to give readers a better appreciation for the rich breadth of ways that artists incorporate walking (both as act and representation) into their work. She only mentioned in passing the Impressionists and their novel adoption of en plein air techniques (i.e. new technologies in paint which allowed them to leave the studio, which meant artists traversing parks to capture idyllic scenes.) She mentioned Gustave Caillebotte’s 1877 painting Paris Street; Rainy Day but could have also gone more at length in her discussion of urban street scenes as an emerging subject matter in modern art. E.g. contrast that painting with Pissarro’s street scenes from the rooftop (which resonate in the world’s first photographs–Niépce’s Window at Le Gras (1826) and Daguerre’s Boulevard du Temple (1839)–both street scenes of Paris captured on rooftop), analogous to the way Michel de Certeau contrasts the intimate scenes of walking in the city with the view of the city from atop a skyscraper in The Practice of Everyday Life . Or compare the street scenes of Caillebotte (or better yet, Jean Béraud) with those of the lonely, suicidal expressionists, Van Gogh and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: artists who were deeply affected by a sort of culture shock, feeling alienated in their simultaneous attraction to and repulsion from the crowd of anonymous pedestrians/consumers–a relatively new phenomenon brought about by modern development. Most of the examples Solnit provides remain confined to walking as an act of performance art and yet even there, she neglected mention one crucial performance and conceptual artist, Bruce Nauman, who has done several series of walking exercises as iterative performances, some of which involve exaggerated pratfalls or satirical emulations of contrapposto posturing. Oddly, she only briefly mentions photography in passing (“artists like Weegee”), when walking serves as a crucial component of the artistic process for most photographers, who often wander through an environment differently than a typical spectator, scanning an environment for the perfect shot or waiting for the right moment. As far as I can recall, she never mentions Ansel Adams, one of the most famous photographers in history, who traversed hitherto untraveled landscapes to capture beauty of the American wilderness (a legacy that dates back to American Romanticism and the imagination of the frontier depicted in Hudson River Painters such as Thomas Cole and writers such as J. F. Cooper). She mentions the French Situationists, but in a different chapter, not in the context of art, when they were arguably as much an avant-garde art collective as a Marxist social group. Another category excluded from her book is artists that notice details on their walks and subtly tweak or tamper with the environment while on their excursions. Gabriel Orozco comes to mind, taking consumer products in convenience stores and rearranging them in misplaced locations to make odd juxtapositions for the photograph. Graffiti artists also do a great deal of walking while scouting the urban environment for their next surface to tag. Solnit rightly discusses the British Earth artist Richard Long at length, but ignores Andy Goldsworthy who takes long hikes to remote locations in Scotland to conduct similar subtle interventions in a natural setting. Walking serves as a way of relying on unexpected chance, happenstance, the process of selection lying somewhere between the given and the chosen in the creative process, which would not come about as easily to the artist confined to the studio. Lastly, there is the tradition of the so-called “found object” in modern and contemporary art, with a whole host of artists bringing curios they’ve collected from their various walks in nature or in the streets to the gallery space. The Nouveau Realistes would be an obvious choice with their use of junk to form compositions, but also Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau, his inhabitable “collage” which functioned like a living repository of the city. Then you have surrealists, like Joseph Cornell with his diorama-like displays, or those bizarre, almost shrine-like works of Annette Messager obsessively collecting strange intricate things from her walks, such as dead birds which she swaddles in crocheted mini-sweaters and arranges on a mountable canvas for display. This reliance on found objects and materials lives on outside the art world, in publications like Found Magazine, which consists entirely of discarded letters found in the street. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kend

         Have you ever been out on a walk, one of those aimless rambles, and found yourself wondering "What the heck am I doing?"  Well, if you have--and I'm not implying you're missing out if you haven't--then Rebecca Solnit can tell you.  The only problem is, she might take 291 pages to tell you.      Other reviewers have written that Solnit's Wanderlust is "propelled by abandon yet guided by a firm intelligence" (San Francisco Chronicle), and "studded with arresting insights that will make you wa      Have you ever been out on a walk, one of those aimless rambles, and found yourself wondering "What the heck am I doing?"  Well, if you have--and I'm not implying you're missing out if you haven't--then Rebecca Solnit can tell you.  The only problem is, she might take 291 pages to tell you.      Other reviewers have written that Solnit's Wanderlust is "propelled by abandon yet guided by a firm intelligence" (San Francisco Chronicle), and "studded with arresting insights that will make you want to throw the book down and hit the open road" (Elle).  However, if you take, as I did, a class of undergraduate students as a kind of litmus test for a book's ability to work on the popular imagination, then you might hear rather less flattering reviews.  I might qualify that the class in question is populated entirely by honors students from a variety of (primarily) technical fields, educated and erudite, although perhaps imperfect experts on literary nonfiction.        If I could summarize their responses down to a single statement, it would be this: Wanderlust has a lot to say that is worth considering, but it is inefficient, disorganized, often frustrating, and even, occasionally, downright boring.  I am perhaps more forgiving than they are, but I share many of their sentiments.      As a collection of nonfiction essays circling in on the theme of walking, Wanderlust does quite a lot that is admirable.  Solnit's command of classic philosophers (particularly Rousseau) is excellent; her knowledge of philosophy, history, art, and idiomatic English is finely tuned; and often, her language borders on the truly beautiful.  The problem with this book, if I'm qualified to observe one, is that it feels too much like a collection and too little like a book with a strong developmental through-line.        There simply isn't anything holding the chapters together or giving them momentum, except for the general theme of walking.  I even agree with my students that it is confounded by internal chaos--and not in a good, or artistically effective way.  Some chapters dabble in the personal anecdote, and some with formal structures like braided narratives, subheadings, and that ubiquitous but easy-to-ignore strip of quotes running along the bottom of every page.  For the most part, however, these formal structures never fell into a rhythm, never made sense, and never stuck around long enough for me to enjoy.  My students wanted the personal anecdotes to go somewhere, and I happen to want the same thing.      Perhaps Solnit's introductory acknowledgements are the key to unlocking this book.  She writes, "I owe the origins of this book to friends who pointed out to me that I was writing about walking in the course of writing about other things and should do so more expansively" (ix).  And truthfully, this book does feel like a patchwork of references to other subjects, almost as if Solnit's mind was never really fully devoted to the topic at hand, but merely wandering the margins.  Wanderlust is a collection of anecdotes, each of which blossoms into a myriad of beautiful shapes, each following a different sun across a different sky.        Much of what Solnit has to say is truly fascinating, but ultimately forgettable, because so few of her ideas are tethered to each other, or to an overarching narrative structure.  This book spurred some good in-class discussion, but mostly for its flaws.  I will look for alternative texts that touch on the same subject to teach the same class in the Fall.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Philippe

    Solnit's "history of walking" is a surprising excursion in a vast and unsystematised subject area. Indeed, like eating and playing, walking is one of these emblematic human activities that are invested with wildly different cultural meanings. I picked up the book because I am an avid walker and mountaineer and, as I learned, an adherent to the British walking tour ethos. For me there is something fundamentally cleansing, wholesome and right about spending time in the great outdoors. However, thi Solnit's "history of walking" is a surprising excursion in a vast and unsystematised subject area. Indeed, like eating and playing, walking is one of these emblematic human activities that are invested with wildly different cultural meanings. I picked up the book because I am an avid walker and mountaineer and, as I learned, an adherent to the British walking tour ethos. For me there is something fundamentally cleansing, wholesome and right about spending time in the great outdoors. However, this smug romanticism, this adhering to an "established religion for the middle class" is sternly criticised by the author of this book. For Solnit walking is a quintessentially political activity. And the politics play out at different levels. First, walking is a bulwark against the erosion of the mind by the incessant contemporary rethoric of efficiency and functionality. The walker exposes herself to the accidental, the unexpected, the random and unscreened, and by doing so rebels against the speed and alienation endemic in our postindustrial world. Second, walking is also a reclamation of a physical and public space that is increasingly suburbanised and privatised. Solnit discusses how the early 20th century city was an arena for aesthetic experimentation and political agitation. Walkers and flaneurs, starting with De Quincey in London and Baudelaire in Paris, experimented with an urban underground culture suffused with eroticism and desire. Protest marchers all over the world and throughout the ages have relied on the democratic functions of the street to make their voices heard. Today, the scope for these kinds of trespasses are increasingly rare due to encroaching private property rights and a soulless, panoptic urban architecture. Hence, thus Solnit, we need to revitalise a counterculture to walk in resistance to the post-industrial and post-modern loss of space, time and embodiment. Last and perhaps not least, walking is and will remain the domain of the amateur. It is one of these few areas of human activity where a hierarchy based on expertise makes very little sense. Everyone, barring physical disabilities, is in principle able to be an expert walker. Beyond the political, there is also a phenomenological dimension to walking which is quite deftly described by Solnit as an "alignment between mind, body and the world". Whoever has spent a couple of days on the trail knows that once the rhythm has been established, one becomes much more alert to minute variations in sensory input (smell, colour, temperatur). Meanwhile, the mind starts to wander much more freely. Solnit writes: "This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it." Solnit's smart and cogent survey of 3 centuries of walking is appropriately brought into relief by her supple and subtle prose which is a real pleasure to read. Her writing is warmly personal - with a tone that modulates unexpectedly between stridency and vulnerability - as well as erudite. There is none of the pedantic selfconsciousness that spoils the discourse of many academic writers and popularisers alike. After "Wanderlust" I went on to read Solnit's "Field guide to getting lost" which, although not in the same league, confirms her qualities as an engaging personal voice.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Philip Dyson

    Rebecca Solnit is an excellent writer, not only because of her beautiful prose but also because of the way she manages to extract significant messages from what might otherwise be seen as dull. In 'Wanderlust', Solnit captivates the reader with diverse and extraordinary tales while always bringing it back to an important message that many of us are only subliminally aware of in day to day life: we are distancing ourselves from our bodies. The restriction of walking places and the anti-walking cu Rebecca Solnit is an excellent writer, not only because of her beautiful prose but also because of the way she manages to extract significant messages from what might otherwise be seen as dull. In 'Wanderlust', Solnit captivates the reader with diverse and extraordinary tales while always bringing it back to an important message that many of us are only subliminally aware of in day to day life: we are distancing ourselves from our bodies. The restriction of walking places and the anti-walking culture of speedy transportation both contribute to reducing walking - an activity that links both the mind and body with the world around it - to an undeserved and potentially catastrophic obsolescence. Forceful but at the rambling, wonder-filled pace of a true walker, Solnit knits together the story of human walking to a compelling and stirring message: remember our bodies, for it is with these bodies that so many freedoms, meditations, artworks have been gained. The only reason I give this book 3 stars is because of the horrible typesetting, which like a dawdling walker in front of you on a narrow road, really obstructed me from reading this at a normal pace. The kerning was incredibly wide, while the margins are so slim you almost have to crack the spine to see some of the words. I'm surprised that Granta books published a book with typesetting such as this, as they usually produce good quality typesetting. I hope they bring out a better designed book in the future.

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