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A literary history of walking from Dickens to Zizek There is no such thing as the wrong step; every time we walk we are going somewhere. Moving around the modern city becomes more than from getting from A to B, but a way of understanding who and where you are. In a series of riveting intellectual rambles, Matthew Beaumont, retraces a history of the walker. From Charles Dicke A literary history of walking from Dickens to Zizek There is no such thing as the wrong step; every time we walk we are going somewhere. Moving around the modern city becomes more than from getting from A to B, but a way of understanding who and where you are. In a series of riveting intellectual rambles, Matthew Beaumont, retraces a history of the walker. From Charles Dicken's insomniac night rambles to wandering through the faceless, windswept monuments of the neoliberal city, the act of walking is one of escape, self-discovery, disappearances and potential revolution. Pacing stride for stride alongside such literary amblers and thinkers as Edgar Allen Poe, Andrew Breton, H G Wells, Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys and Ray Bradbury, Matthew Beaumont explores the relationship between the metropolis and its pedestrian life. He asks can you get lost in a crowd? It is polite to stare at people walking past on the street? What differentiates the city of daylight and the nocturnal metropolis? What connects walking, philosophy and the big toe? Can we save the city - or ourselves - by taking the pavement?


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A literary history of walking from Dickens to Zizek There is no such thing as the wrong step; every time we walk we are going somewhere. Moving around the modern city becomes more than from getting from A to B, but a way of understanding who and where you are. In a series of riveting intellectual rambles, Matthew Beaumont, retraces a history of the walker. From Charles Dicke A literary history of walking from Dickens to Zizek There is no such thing as the wrong step; every time we walk we are going somewhere. Moving around the modern city becomes more than from getting from A to B, but a way of understanding who and where you are. In a series of riveting intellectual rambles, Matthew Beaumont, retraces a history of the walker. From Charles Dicken's insomniac night rambles to wandering through the faceless, windswept monuments of the neoliberal city, the act of walking is one of escape, self-discovery, disappearances and potential revolution. Pacing stride for stride alongside such literary amblers and thinkers as Edgar Allen Poe, Andrew Breton, H G Wells, Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys and Ray Bradbury, Matthew Beaumont explores the relationship between the metropolis and its pedestrian life. He asks can you get lost in a crowd? It is polite to stare at people walking past on the street? What differentiates the city of daylight and the nocturnal metropolis? What connects walking, philosophy and the big toe? Can we save the city - or ourselves - by taking the pavement?

30 review for The Walker: On Losing and Finding Yourself in the Modern City

  1. 4 out of 5

    madison

    I thought this was going to be a more light, travel writing kind of read but that's due to my own ignorance about the author's work as a scholar, and forgetting, "oh, duh, the publisher is Verso!" NOW I know :) and I'm not at all disappointed. I had no idea how completely this book was going to be my shit. The Walker is a scholarly work that philosophizes the act of walking through (largely) 19th century literature. It's written by an academic for an academic audience. I really don't know much at I thought this was going to be a more light, travel writing kind of read but that's due to my own ignorance about the author's work as a scholar, and forgetting, "oh, duh, the publisher is Verso!" NOW I know :) and I'm not at all disappointed. I had no idea how completely this book was going to be my shit. The Walker is a scholarly work that philosophizes the act of walking through (largely) 19th century literature. It's written by an academic for an academic audience. I really don't know much at all about the subject matter or works mentioned in the book aside from a few. It's dense, and took me a long while to finish (it's the same for all scholarly works I read, I have to reread paragraphs or pages, look up words in the dictionary, people on Wikipedia, add the books referenced to my "to read" list, and I stopped to highlight portions I loved often). I kept interrupting my partner during the days and nights I read this book to read him passages I loved. Overall, the book is about how the body and the mind encounter the spaces they occupy, especially within urban/city environments of the 19th century. Some people "wander" in cities, some "disappear," some "collapse" or have panic attacks, some may feel connected to their environments or alienated. Each chapter focuses on a particular mode of existing within cities and how navigating them on foot manifested itself through the lens of specific writers (Poe, Dickens, Wells, Woolf, Bradbury). People walk and encounter the world differently, bringing all of their neuroses and psychological, emotional states of being along with them. Beaumont explores how these bodies and mental states react as they "bump into" the world of newly modern and industrialized cities such as London and Paris. I loved Beaumont's analysis of how walking is tied to capitalism and ideas of productivity that emerged around these times as well. I love the assertion about how walking can be either very anti-capitalist or very capitalist. Beaumont talks about how the world started to move faster. Some began to briskly walk to get from point A to point B, in the quickest way possible. Our human value was increasingly being tied to our productivity, or our ability to make money for other people. To wander, to saunter, or leisurely stroll, was beginning to be seen as wasteful, lazy, or even criminal. Walking is seen as being without value in a capitalist, modern society. As a result, and in some instances, walking simply to walk can be seen as revolutionary or as rebellion. It made me think so much about the world today, about those with physical disabilities, about what it's like to walk in the world as a woman, how I have felt at home or not at home in small cities or big cities or abroad. It made me think about the lack of public transportation and the difficulty of walking within a vast majority of US cities, big and small, and how that has impacted me over the course of my life. I remember what it felt like the first time I visited a walkable city. I guess I just loved all the things the Walker made me think about. What knowledge I have of art history (loved all the visual art references!! did I miss any reference to Giacometti? or Dada? or Futurism? I expected there to be some after I got into the book, I guess that was more 20th century?) and museum studies (understanding how bodies are impacted by and how they move within spaces is vital) really added to and enriched my experience of reading this book. I imagine if you're a reader that knows a lot about British or 19th century literature, you'd be even more jazzed than I was while reading this. I want to read everything Matthew Beaumont ever wrote now. Fairly certain I highlighted 50% of this book out of pure joy and excitement. I live for this kind of book. Love, love, love, love. Thanks to #NetGalley and Verso for sharing a copy of this book with me in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lavinia

    (3.5*) Highly enjoyable, despite being an academic reading not easy to classify. I particularly liked the way Beaumont structured the chapters, focusing on different types of walking the city (convalescing, fleeing, collapsing, etc.) with relevant examples from various works of fiction. Very well researched and quite dense, I have to admit that the parts that shifted from literature were not as exciting for me, personally.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Travelling Bookworm

    "Isn't it really quite extraordinary to see that, since man took his first steps, no one has asked himself why he walks, how he walks, if he has ever walked, if he could walk better, what he achieves in walking?" — Slowly coming out of a long period of nationwide lock-down and self-quarantine, simply going out on a stroll in the city has taken on a strange, elating, fresh importance. As I walked in the re-awakening streets, I found myself thinking about this book that nudges the walker to think mo "Isn't it really quite extraordinary to see that, since man took his first steps, no one has asked himself why he walks, how he walks, if he has ever walked, if he could walk better, what he achieves in walking?" — Slowly coming out of a long period of nationwide lock-down and self-quarantine, simply going out on a stroll in the city has taken on a strange, elating, fresh importance. As I walked in the re-awakening streets, I found myself thinking about this book that nudges the walker to think more about each step we take, elevating walking into a meditation. Anchored in great works of literature, The Walker is undoubtedly an incredibly well researched book that takes a philosophical deep-dive into the meaning of modernity on the urban space from a pedestrian point of view. This work weaves through all the themes that impact the psychology of walking: literature, of course, but also architecture, technology, philosophy, society, economy and politics. However, it does feel a lot more academic than your average non-fiction books, and it is surely a densely informational read that might be difficult to get through at times. If nothing else, this book will add some valuable new entries to your future TBR list with its wide range of great literary references. (I have received this book as an ARC from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    A collection of essays focusing on the nature of walking in an urban city from the 19th-century to the 20th. Very much a literary study on the subject matter of wandering through the city on authors C.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Woolf, Georges Bataille, Ray Bradbury, Edward Bellamy, and most important to me, Ford Madox Ford. I found the essay on Ford as a very personal approach to the subject matter of having vertigo in public spaces. I suffer from the same, but I h A collection of essays focusing on the nature of walking in an urban city from the 19th-century to the 20th. Very much a literary study on the subject matter of wandering through the city on authors C.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Woolf, Georges Bataille, Ray Bradbury, Edward Bellamy, and most important to me, Ford Madox Ford. I found the essay on Ford as a very personal approach to the subject matter of having vertigo in public spaces. I suffer from the same, but I have trouble defining the issues behind my phobia. Reading the chapter on Ford, with his connection of walking in large areas in cities and feeling not quite right. A part of the book I'll read over and over again. As for the rest of the book, it's a worthy volume on a subject matter that is very dear to my heart and mind.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    (review for NetGalley) This is a wonderful piece of work, a fanciful weaving-together and contrasting of early modern literature, focused on authors' and artists' practices of walking and wandering in the manner of the archetypal flâneur. In the manner of many of my favorite books, it's difficult to categorize. While literary criticism is the vehicle, the book is primarily social commentary, in which he uses different 'modes' of walking or existing in public space (fleeing, wandering, stumbling, (review for NetGalley) This is a wonderful piece of work, a fanciful weaving-together and contrasting of early modern literature, focused on authors' and artists' practices of walking and wandering in the manner of the archetypal flâneur. In the manner of many of my favorite books, it's difficult to categorize. While literary criticism is the vehicle, the book is primarily social commentary, in which he uses different 'modes' of walking or existing in public space (fleeing, wandering, stumbling, collapsing, etc.) to complicate the notion of the modern subject. The book's central gimmick is a line from André Breton: “There are no lost steps!”. With this, Beaumont suggests that there's a profound commentary on modern existence etched into the scenes of urban street-walking from early modern literature. This becomes Beaumont's crie de cœur for 'a modernism of the streets', the attempt of authors to 'make the cities with which they were familiar seem new or strange by traversing them aimlessly'. My only reservation (perhaps unfair, since this is a work of literary criticism), is that Beaumont's enthusiasm for the topic predisposes him to quote multiple authors in a single breath, often with his own inexplicable commentary on their quality. But: a small price to pay. I found the formal logic of the book challenging, but I have convinced myself that it serves a purpose, and is in fact rather artful. After the introduction, each of the nine chapters treats one piece of fiction extensively, though often with extended digressions on other relevant works. In this manner, we proceed through works by Poe, Dickens, Bellamy, H.G. Wells, G.K. Chesterton, Ford Maddox Ford, Woolf, Bataille, and Bradburry. Abruptly, then, chapter 10 does not focus on any particular piece of literature. Suddenly, Beaumont is addressing us directly, and taking us on a strangely literal tour of a particular mode of architecture. My explanation is this: form, in this book, mirrors content. Beaumont takes us on a nine-chapter traversal of the literature, seemingly aimlessly, but all the while allowing us to develop a political consciousness of how we inhabit and move through urban space. His final digression, which might almost be an article in the Guardian, shows us how the trends he identifies in the literature have shaped the present we inhabit. For my own sake, I have to note that I was enormously moved by Beaumont's Afterword, which is a short meditation on the Tyburn Tree, the infamous gallows of London that stood at the corner of modern-day Hyde Park, very near to Marble Arch. Beaumont contrasts the empty imperialist bombast of the Arch, which leads nowhere and commemorates nothing, with the ignominy of the small paving stone that marks Tyburn Tree, whose victims number in the tens of thousands. In a beautiful coincidence, I read much of this book in Washington Square Park, New York's most famously social space. The arch here is similarly triumphalist, and also famously built on the bones of the wretched of its own empire (in this case, the re-possessed land of Angolan slaves, and a potter's field with over 20,000 bodies). I am here, many miles from my home in Harlem, because this is the first place I have come to resume in-person activities, as the reality of the COVID lockdown unfolds. Two months ago, a block west, I was part of a crowd chanting our entitlement to the streets as we forced police into retreat, to the safety of sixth avenue; now, I attend an in-person Marxist reading group here, where it's difficult to hear each other over masks and the sounds of six other overlapping interpersonal realities jostling in the air, as they always have in this park. The police still maintain a heavy presence in or near the park, but as of last week had retreated to two small groups, circling each leg of the arch, to prevent graffiti. As we left, the park's ubiquitous punk teenagers were shouting at the cops: quoting the NYPD misconduct reports that had just been published. In short, there is hardly a better place to imagine a new politics of the street.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Know that this is very much more literary criticism and not the sort of light read about taking a stroll that the title might lead you to believe. It is dense in spots and at times you (well, I did) might find yourself groping for more info on the titles and or authors Beaumont references. At the same time, it's enlightening, thoughtful, well researched, and one where certain sections will stick with you. I found myself setting it down and picking it up again; it worked best for me once I realiz Know that this is very much more literary criticism and not the sort of light read about taking a stroll that the title might lead you to believe. It is dense in spots and at times you (well, I did) might find yourself groping for more info on the titles and or authors Beaumont references. At the same time, it's enlightening, thoughtful, well researched, and one where certain sections will stick with you. I found myself setting it down and picking it up again; it worked best for me once I realized that I should read it like a collection, not straight through. Thanks to edelweiss for the ARC. Not a casual read but a worth one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    The Walker by Matthew Beaumont is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early November. Philosophical and observational thoughts on urban walking that's written in the style of a thesis where Beaumont references classic art and literature. I'm not entirely sure what kind of reader that this is meant to draw, but it's definitely not me. The Walker by Matthew Beaumont is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early November. Philosophical and observational thoughts on urban walking that's written in the style of a thesis where Beaumont references classic art and literature. I'm not entirely sure what kind of reader that this is meant to draw, but it's definitely not me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Soha

    Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. PUB DATE - 10 November 2020 (out now!) 🌿

  9. 5 out of 5

    Loren

    This read like a series of short posts stretched out to chapter length. It's written like a lecture by a professor who doesn't trust that you took his point the first time he made it, so he repeats and reiterates and talks around the point. The best part of the book is the list of readings he suggests. I think I will use that as a jumping-off point instead of slogging through any more of this. Very disappointing. This read like a series of short posts stretched out to chapter length. It's written like a lecture by a professor who doesn't trust that you took his point the first time he made it, so he repeats and reiterates and talks around the point. The best part of the book is the list of readings he suggests. I think I will use that as a jumping-off point instead of slogging through any more of this. Very disappointing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Beaumont's book is a thorough and entertaining exploration of tropes of the urban "Walker." In many ways, it feels inspired by Marshal Berman's classic 1982 All That is Solid Melts into Air All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity. Whereas Berman demonstrates a chronological development of the representations of the modern, European city street, Beaumont takes a more thematical approach. Although his chapters analyze works of literature spanning two centuries in roughly chro Beaumont's book is a thorough and entertaining exploration of tropes of the urban "Walker." In many ways, it feels inspired by Marshal Berman's classic 1982 All That is Solid Melts into Air All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity. Whereas Berman demonstrates a chronological development of the representations of the modern, European city street, Beaumont takes a more thematical approach. Although his chapters analyze works of literature spanning two centuries in roughly chronological order, the real beauty of his book comes across in his kaleidoscopic view of the diversity of tropes of the man in the streets. Regrettably, the book is overwhelmingly white and male. Beaumont addresses the latter of these points in his introduction, arguing that the modern European city has, typically and oppressively, been a masculine realm. Quoting Erika Diane Rappaport, he claims that a woman's ability to stroll in the 19th and 20th centuries "' was constrained by physical inconveniences and dangers as well as by social conventions that deemed it entirely improper for a bourgeois lady to roam alone out-of-doors.'" La flânuese was "not a common phenomenon." For this reason, Beaumont self-consciously concentrates on"the male territory" of the city. He does include a chapter on Woolf, albeit focusing on the predatory relationship between her male character, Peter, of Mrs. Dalloway. Generally speaking, the lack of female or BIPOC perspectives is a loss, but perhaps a not surprising one given the continuing hegemony of white men in western studies of literature (among, certainly, many other subjects). Perhaps the most rewarding element of Beaumont's book is, as mentioned above, the kaleidoscopic scope of his content. He sets out to dethrone the image of the flâneur as the archetype of modern European urban walking. He writes, "The flâneur glorified by Baudelaire was never the comfortable, complacent bourgeois stroller that had been so fashionable in the 1840s in those illustrations and journalistic sketches . . . Baudelaire was already emphasizing the flâneur's restless, unsettling experience of both the life of the metropolitan street and his own skin." Every chapter presents a different way in which the idea of the flâneur faces a "crisis" of "not belonging." These crises span the experience of the Convalescent, freshly re-birthed in a city; the fugue states of walkers like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; the "politics of the visor" enforced by modern, opaque architecture; and many more. Beaumont's explanation of convalescence, and particularly the escape of a convalescent from sickroom quarantine into the outside world, is particularly appealing in the context of our current pandemic. Indeed, the book at large makes one both long for and vicariously experience the now (temporarily) distant experience of urban life. The thrill of being out, amongst crowds of strangers, in the multifaceted relationship between individual and society, human and built environment, has become an entirely different (although no less, perhaps even more political one) than in non-pandemic times. Beaumont's well-timed ode to the "anti-heroes" of the city reminds one both of the joyful urban experience that we eagerly look to return to as well as the problems, concrete as well as philosophical, that persist in our cities. Finally, Beaumont deserves recognition for his wonderful combination of humour and analysis. Although The Walker - On Losing and Finding Yourself in the Modern City is not a funny book per se, Beaumont seems to relish in the playfulness of academic discourse. Perhaps my personal favorite chapter, Chapter 8 "Beginning," is dedicated to the Big Toe. Beaumont makes a serious and well-formed (and quite creative) argument in favor of the Big Toe as the defining feature and "beginning of" humanity. And yet, for this reader at least, he never escaped the ridiculousness of the suggestion. In this way, he escaped the dry, sometimes navel-gazing tone of academic analysis without compromising on the interest of the analysis itself. At the confluence of the two, you get tongue-in-cheek passages like Beaumont's conclusion that "[Georges] Bataille, it might be said, calls for the dictatorship of the toeleprariat." Beaumont seems to build an overarching arugment that the city is inherently unwelcoming to pedestrians, calling upon Walkers to take up a masked "politics of the visor" in order to fight back against a real or perceived architectural surveillance state. This conclusion is convincing enough but pales in comparison to the interest of the chapters individually. The Walker is an interesting jaunt across modern European literary cities and, like any good jaunt, it's value lies in the curious twists and turns found along the way.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jack Theaker

    I was torn whether I liked this or not. The form is quite inaccessible, the book doesn't develop or pursue any clear lines of arguments, but I came to find that quite exciting in the end. Through a meandering set of essays, Beaumont explores what it is to just walk. By using various literary standards as allegories for his essay subject, the book is imbued with an underlying romanticism which is used as a platform to explore the 'psychogeography' of walking - what space is, and how it affects us I was torn whether I liked this or not. The form is quite inaccessible, the book doesn't develop or pursue any clear lines of arguments, but I came to find that quite exciting in the end. Through a meandering set of essays, Beaumont explores what it is to just walk. By using various literary standards as allegories for his essay subject, the book is imbued with an underlying romanticism which is used as a platform to explore the 'psychogeography' of walking - what space is, and how it affects us - to eventually create a holistic aesthetic to walking in the modern city. Particular highlights were: 'Convalescence'; the realisation that every wannabe-romantic has when they are delivered from ignorance and have a revelation inspired by their sensory experience of the concrete world around them. I had this once, finding myself convalescing towards sobriety with a friend at six A.M. on a grey and seething Sunday morning at London Bridge station. There, I saw people, swathes of people (in a global pandemic also) - consumed by the Sisyphean struggle and embarking on their necessary commute in order to Labour. The aggregate unfreedom manifesting within that commuter purgatory served to radicalise as much as any book on theory I could read. 'Stumbling'; based on Ray Bradbury's 'The Pedestrian' - a short dystopian story on how, these days, you can get arrested and thrown in jail, just for walking. Beaumont sees this as a depiction of the 'one dimensional society' set out by Herbert Marcuse in the 50s, a society where the essence of our souls is characterised by split-level homes, standardised cars, and the stale white glow of our television sets. Beaumont certainly doesn't fail to address the prescience of Marcuse and Bradbury's writing - we are living this dystopia now. One of the only ways out of it is through nature. Heralded by the 'Grassy Seams' coming up through the pavements in 'The Pedestrian', the book is a reminder that nature is omnipotent, and until society is reorganised in such a way to overcome this, it always will be. 'On the architectural logic of contemporary capitalism', this one was more just an essay on the intimidating nature of private architecture in the modern metropolis - but profound and pertinent nonetheless. By exploring Zizek's theory of the "architectural parallax", that buildings are both what they seem and not what they seem, changing in our perception with every movement we take - Beaumont reveals how the private sector's domination of our architecture, and the lack of democracy attributed to it, converts our cities into panopticons where atomised individuals seek refuge from the horrors of modernity in their impersonal homes, and look on the outside world in safety. I had this realisation last night, one of my completely-normal past times is to amble around new-build estates. They all attempt to provide a sense of self to the prospective owners, offering them the false catharsis of the 'village life', the 'good life', then shackling them in uncanny prisons of solitude. Just walking through their streets is terrifying, the architecture lunges into an attempt of individualism, but reverts into standardisation, uniformity, grids. Freedom once again is nowhere to be seen in the suburbia's of modernity. I probably wouldn't recommend this to many people, but I would desperately recommend it to those who either like walking or, like myself, have way too much time on their hands to facilitate the aimless exploration of modern cities.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Many thanks to Verso Books and NetGalley for the ARC. I requested The Walker because I’ve done some academic work about moving through the 19th-century city. I always like learning more about subjects I’ve studied, and this book promised discussions on Poe and Dickens as well as some later authors I’m interested in. And I wasn’t disappointed. Beaumont draws on all the scholars and concepts I studied: Walter Benjamin, Baudelaire’s flâneur, Michel de Certeau, Judith Walkowitz, the panopticon, etc. Many thanks to Verso Books and NetGalley for the ARC. I requested The Walker because I’ve done some academic work about moving through the 19th-century city. I always like learning more about subjects I’ve studied, and this book promised discussions on Poe and Dickens as well as some later authors I’m interested in. And I wasn’t disappointed. Beaumont draws on all the scholars and concepts I studied: Walter Benjamin, Baudelaire’s flâneur, Michel de Certeau, Judith Walkowitz, the panopticon, etc. I will say, this will likely be a difficult book to follow for someone who has no background in the subject. My favorite chapters were definitely the ones on Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf. Beaumont focuses on Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop, looking especially at the opening scene in which Little Nell encounters Master Humphrey out in the London streets one night. I haven’t read The Old Curiosity Shop, but Beaumont’s excellent analysis pulled me right in. In a different chapter, he looks at Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, which I have read. I was particularly intrigued by his discussion of Peter Walsh’s predatory behavior while walking. It was interesting and especially relevant to the idea of walking in the modern city. In addition to drawing on concepts I’m familiar with, Beaumont also introduces ideas that were new to me. In the first chapter, he looks at Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd” and the figure of the convalescent. In the sixth chapter, he looks at Ford Madox Ford’s Return to Yesterday and the figure of the agoraphobic. I had never throughout about either the convalescent or the agoraphobic as mobile figures in the city, so I enjoyed reading Beaumont’s views on them. I had also never heard of Ford’s work before, so I intend to check him out. Like many academic works, this book is fairly dense and theoretical. While I did enjoy it for the most part, there were times when it became too much and things went over my head. The final chapter in particular I found difficult to get through. It refers a lot of Jacques Derrida, who I always have trouble with. There are also moments when Beaumont goes off on tangents that don’t quite seems relevant to the subject. This occurred quite often in the eighth chapter on Georges Bataille’s “Big Toe.” I had a difficult time understanding that chapter and didn’t quite see how a lot of it tied into walking in the city. Overall, The Walker is an excellent academic read on walking in the city. It’s dense, but definitely worth it for those who are interested in the subject.

  13. 5 out of 5

    T.J. Breshears

    TOLKIEN Score: 42.50 / 100 Scoring Breakdown (out of 4): Goodreads - 3.00 Design - 2 50 Page - 0 Tired - 1 Prose - 4 Conclusion - 2 Length - 1 Reread - 0 Recommend - 1 Thought-Provoking - 3 Selected Category Notes: (for full notes -> The Walker) Prose - Beaumont is a professor in the English Department of a university in England. He knows some things about the ENGLISH LANGUAGE. Words that I was not familiar with are sprinkled throughout this book. When I say sprinkled, think of this masterpiece. For i TOLKIEN Score: 42.50 / 100 Scoring Breakdown (out of 4): Goodreads - 3.00 Design - 2 50 Page - 0 Tired - 1 Prose - 4 Conclusion - 2 Length - 1 Reread - 0 Recommend - 1 Thought-Provoking - 3 Selected Category Notes: (for full notes -> The Walker) Prose - Beaumont is a professor in the English Department of a university in England. He knows some things about the ENGLISH LANGUAGE. Words that I was not familiar with are sprinkled throughout this book. When I say sprinkled, think of this masterpiece. For instance, the flâneur is incredibly important to this book. So yeah, he scored high here. Thought-Provoking - There is a lot here to unpack. Honestly, most of it went over my head. The biggest thing I was struck with was how many literary works I don’t know. While the authors that Beaumont looked at were often familiar (Dickens, Bradbury, Poe), the works were less well known. It made me want to explore some of them. Also, I have never thought about the influence of walking through a city, but it is now something I will take less for granted, especially in a time where being in public is not desirable for health reasons. Thanks to NetGalley, Verso Books, and Matthew Beaumont for an advanced release copy (ARC) of this book in exchange for an honest review. [Learn more about my TOLKIEN rating system.]

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mark Dickson

    This is a collection of essays on topics that primarily revolve around a person’s existence in large modern cities, using the lens of literature as a method of explanation. I deliberately use the word “primarily” due to how often we detour from this focus over the course of the book. There were small portions and even entire essays that felt like essays the author really wanted to write, but couldn’t find another place for. Similarly, it felt like this book really needed a tighter edit. There is r This is a collection of essays on topics that primarily revolve around a person’s existence in large modern cities, using the lens of literature as a method of explanation. I deliberately use the word “primarily” due to how often we detour from this focus over the course of the book. There were small portions and even entire essays that felt like essays the author really wanted to write, but couldn’t find another place for. Similarly, it felt like this book really needed a tighter edit. There is repetition of points with slightly different wording, combined with a regular overuse of the same quotes. Despite that, there are some impactful and insightful points made in this book about how to define a healthier relationship with modern civilisation, and the strangely counter-cultural and revolutionary act of walking; specifically, I found the criticism that “night-walking” is so frowned upon extremely enlightening. Why does society say that we can’t we walk at night? What’s up with that? I’ve come away from this book with a lot to think about and implement in my day-to-day life, and my only wish is that this book was more tightly written because I really want to recommend it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    I really wanted to like this more. It is a worthy and well-researched piece of work, which explores various guises of the flaneur throughout literature, but it reads as a very dry academic text, with copious footnotes and that air of ivory-tower floweriness of language. A book like this needs, for a general audience, some interaction between the author, the subject and the reader - which does come, but frustratingly only in the final chapter when the author loosens the bonds of academic stricture I really wanted to like this more. It is a worthy and well-researched piece of work, which explores various guises of the flaneur throughout literature, but it reads as a very dry academic text, with copious footnotes and that air of ivory-tower floweriness of language. A book like this needs, for a general audience, some interaction between the author, the subject and the reader - which does come, but frustratingly only in the final chapter when the author loosens the bonds of academic strictures and dares to insert himself into the text, as he himself walks the city. This is what was needed throughout; other successful books which manage this transition from dry academic tome to accessible general text should have provided a template for what would have worked. There is no denying the research and intelligence behind the book. It just needed a good editor to request a re-write for a more general audience. This book, I fear, is destined for the dusty shelves of libraries and the studies of academics only. Which is a shame.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    An interesting work of literary criticism, examining the role of people walking in different pieces of important historical fiction. I'm more interested in the philosophy of walking, but I did find the ideas engaging. Because this is addressing so many other works, it inspired me to read a lot more important old books, but that also delayed my reading of this book as each essay involved reading another book or three. I'd recommend this for fans of literary criticism, the authors involved, walkin An interesting work of literary criticism, examining the role of people walking in different pieces of important historical fiction. I'm more interested in the philosophy of walking, but I did find the ideas engaging. Because this is addressing so many other works, it inspired me to read a lot more important old books, but that also delayed my reading of this book as each essay involved reading another book or three. I'd recommend this for fans of literary criticism, the authors involved, walking or cities & urbanism more generally. The authors & works he looks at include Andre Breton's Nadja, Poe, Dickens, Bellamy, HG Wells, GK Chesterton, Ford Madox Ford, Woolf, George Bataille & Ray Bradbury. This is the kind of book I keep on the table to read an essay/chapter at a time then set aside for a month - it reminds to read deeply and lets the ideas percolate through other books and every day life.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert Reinhard

    The introductory essay is so full of literary and intellectual history promise, a mind easily associating numerous and disparate images and touchstones to provoke a creative window into understanding turn of the 20th century modernism and contrasting it to contemporary urban technology. The following chapter essays - some previously published and not ordered as a sequential full length book argument - don't always live up to that promise and the citation and quote style can be a little tiresome. The introductory essay is so full of literary and intellectual history promise, a mind easily associating numerous and disparate images and touchstones to provoke a creative window into understanding turn of the 20th century modernism and contrasting it to contemporary urban technology. The following chapter essays - some previously published and not ordered as a sequential full length book argument - don't always live up to that promise and the citation and quote style can be a little tiresome. Still it was very interesting to read of how Ford Maddox Ford accidentally came upon exiled Zola in a public park and how the novelist Balzac - Theory of Walking - is likely the person who first understood what is now the importance of gait to diagnose physical frailty and medical conditions. I wonder if Fran Lebowitz has read this book. She likes to walk around the city the way Walter Benjamin did.

  18. 4 out of 5

    janne Boswell

    I enjoyed it. However, it was much more cerebral than I anticipated. It was dense with intellectual theory on the benefits of walking. I enjoyed his literary references from Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf, Jean Rys, Ray Bradbury. "Dickens compares himself to the restlessness of a great city the way it tumbles and tosses before it can go to sleep." "Every nightwalk is thus a fugue or psychogenic flight-an escape from the self and at the same time-a plunge into its depths." I enjoye I enjoyed it. However, it was much more cerebral than I anticipated. It was dense with intellectual theory on the benefits of walking. I enjoyed his literary references from Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf, Jean Rys, Ray Bradbury. "Dickens compares himself to the restlessness of a great city the way it tumbles and tosses before it can go to sleep." "Every nightwalk is thus a fugue or psychogenic flight-an escape from the self and at the same time-a plunge into its depths." I enjoyed the psychological perspective of the mental benefits of walking. I am a distance walker, and at times, I feel as though I am walking aimlessly. I felt this book explained the purpose of walking aimlessly, as a means of self reflection and the fact that "compulsive wandering is linked to compulsive wondering." Thank you NetGalley and Verson for the opportunity to read this delightful book!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Loh

    Matthew Beaumont has addressed that his book falls short of inclusivity in his opening introduction and that the experiences of the pedestrian throughout the book is from one of a White man’s. There are tons of books by White men discussing the metropolis-pedestrian relationship and the topic has become a global discussion that we definitely need more books that include points of view that isn’t male or from the West. However, despite all of this, I really enjoyed the easy and enjoyable way Matt Matthew Beaumont has addressed that his book falls short of inclusivity in his opening introduction and that the experiences of the pedestrian throughout the book is from one of a White man’s. There are tons of books by White men discussing the metropolis-pedestrian relationship and the topic has become a global discussion that we definitely need more books that include points of view that isn’t male or from the West. However, despite all of this, I really enjoyed the easy and enjoyable way Matthew has managed to talk about living in the city and in particular, the act of walking in the city. I especially enjoyed how well-researched this book was as well as how the chapters were sectioned according to the different types of walks we face in the metropolis. The usage of literature books as foundations to each chapter was also something I really liked.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susanne

    Thank you to the author, Verso Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to like this book - I tried so very hard to get into it, and to like it... but it was too much for me. Too dense, too academic, too much literary criticism and not enough real life. I am sure this will find its audience of enthusiastic readers, but the description led me to expect something different, and what I got was not something I would read, given the choice. I slogged through it due to Thank you to the author, Verso Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to like this book - I tried so very hard to get into it, and to like it... but it was too much for me. Too dense, too academic, too much literary criticism and not enough real life. I am sure this will find its audience of enthusiastic readers, but the description led me to expect something different, and what I got was not something I would read, given the choice. I slogged through it due to my feeling of responsibility, having received an ARC and all, but the only part that I really enjoyed was the Afterword, with the author giving his own perspective, exploration and thoughts, rather than an academic treatise on works of classic literature.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brian Hanson

    As someone who made my peace with London, on arriving from the North in 1971, by pacing its streets, mainly by night, I found Matthew Beaumont's theme seductive. And I was indeed seduced, up to the point towards the end where he addresses contemporary architecture in the city. Here he tries to spin out some thin and barely comprehensible ideas from Zizek and Derrida, and makes the usual mistake in assuming that glazed elevations are transparent, and that modern buildings that deviate from this s As someone who made my peace with London, on arriving from the North in 1971, by pacing its streets, mainly by night, I found Matthew Beaumont's theme seductive. And I was indeed seduced, up to the point towards the end where he addresses contemporary architecture in the city. Here he tries to spin out some thin and barely comprehensible ideas from Zizek and Derrida, and makes the usual mistake in assuming that glazed elevations are transparent, and that modern buildings that deviate from this supposed transparency have something to hide. A bathetic end, then, to an otherwise fascinating book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dick Hamilton

    I was expecting something different so I was both pleased and disappointed. The book includes nine essays framed on nine stories/novels, most of which I had previously read. From the title, I expected more about walking, one of my favorite pastimes. The essays were all very well written but I found my level of interest to be very uneven. I felt that the essays based on Chesterton, Bradbury and Wells to be excellent but this probably reflects a personal preference. I would caution that it is a sl I was expecting something different so I was both pleased and disappointed. The book includes nine essays framed on nine stories/novels, most of which I had previously read. From the title, I expected more about walking, one of my favorite pastimes. The essays were all very well written but I found my level of interest to be very uneven. I felt that the essays based on Chesterton, Bradbury and Wells to be excellent but this probably reflects a personal preference. I would caution that it is a slow read and not something to be started, and completed, on a quiet afternoon.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Barrett

    A dense but rewarding read filled with citations and quotes from 19th and 20th century European writers. It's a unique book with some unique insights into the relationship of the individual with the streets of the city. This book is very much in line with other titles from the same publisher (Verso books) that share a leftist, anti-capitalist worldview. A dense but rewarding read filled with citations and quotes from 19th and 20th century European writers. It's a unique book with some unique insights into the relationship of the individual with the streets of the city. This book is very much in line with other titles from the same publisher (Verso books) that share a leftist, anti-capitalist worldview.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenn of The Bookish Society

    I enjoyed this almost textbook-like nonfiction title about walking in a city. It definitely has upper-level vocabulary and tone, but I like that about it. It validated my feelings that walking in a city is very different from walking through the woods. I liked it a lot and am keeping a space for this on my shelves to go back to it at some point.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Mills

    This is a lot more literary criticism, not the kind of light read about taking a stroll that might lead you to believe in the title. It is dense in places and often you can find yourself groping for more details about the titles and references by the writer. I found myself putting it down and then picking it up. Not a casual read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Randy L. Smith

    Pretentious is enough for me. Non-starter.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jenn Adams

    only DNF-ing for now because I'm trying to go mostly if not all physical books in December only DNF-ing for now because I'm trying to go mostly if not all physical books in December

  28. 5 out of 5

    Garden Utensil

    read the intro, also meh

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beth Younge

    I liked this overall and it was interesting to see the idea of the flaneur through multiple authors' eyes and from various time periods. I liked the writing style and how the quotes was embedded in the writing well. The city was shown in many way and through various eyes and this showed the city as an ever changing thing. This book was fascinating and interesting overall. I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I liked this overall and it was interesting to see the idea of the flaneur through multiple authors' eyes and from various time periods. I liked the writing style and how the quotes was embedded in the writing well. The city was shown in many way and through various eyes and this showed the city as an ever changing thing. This book was fascinating and interesting overall. I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lewis

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