Book Review: The Art Of Wandering

The Art Of Wandering:  The Writer As Walker, by Merlin Coverley

Admittedly, I am far better as a writer than as a walker, but both are activities I tend to enjoy, so long as they are not overly strenuous.  My walking, unless I take a cane along, has been a bit limited in recent years but it is certainly an activity I have long enjoyed for its slow pace and the enjoyment of light exercise and beautiful sights.  One the theses of this book, though, is that a great deal of writers don’t really write about walking because it is something that is taken for granted, and the author seeks to discuss walking (and other means of transportation) with a great deal of focus on what the authors reveal about their walking, whether the destination or what they saw along the way or what.  Speaking personally, there is an element of walking that I focus on in my writing and that is the painfulness and slowness of my hobbling in the face of my frequent foot pains due to gout [1], and that is, sadly, an element of walking that the author chooses not to discuss for one reason or another, even if it is of course of great interest to me as someone who is both a walker and a writer and who does both activities painfully.

This book of a bit more than 200 pages is divided into nine chapters where the author discusses his love of talking about how writers deal with the subject of walking.  The author begins by talking about the writer as a walker and how walking appears in writings.  After that the author discusses walking as it occurs in philosophy (1) as well as in the writings of various people about pilgrims and pilgrimages (2).  This is followed by a discussion of the imaginary walker, or how people walk in their imagination as a way of staying sane while under confinement (3).  Then there is a discussion about the walker as a vagrant, where writers discuss their own occasional vagrancy (4).  There are then discussions about the writer and his (or her) discussion of the natural world (5) as well as the writer as a visionary (6), and even an entire chapter on the flâneur (7).  After that there is a discussion of experimental walking (8) as well as the return of the walker (9) in more contemporary writings, after which the book closes with a bibliography, online sources, and notes.

It is quite intriguing to see the way that walking has influenced the writing of various people.  Some of the stories told in this book are quite fascinating, like the way that the timing of the writings of Virginia Woolf requires a phantom taxi to work things out right in Mrs. Dalloway, for example, or the way that walking was not quite as fundamental to the development of philosophy as is sometimes argued to be the case.  When it comes to the relationship of great thinkers and writers it turns out that they were not quite as interested in walking as is sometimes argued to be the case, and it is somewhat impressive at times to see the way in which people have managed to obtain graduate degrees based on obscure walking details, and that this research makes for a generally enjoyable if somewhat quirky book.  Admittedly, I do not think that many people are interested in the relationship between walking and writing, whether one deals with philosophy or literature or the naturalistic writings of Muir, but for those who are interested in such matters this book is a worthwhile ramble through the subject.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s