11:23:13 The Lost Art of Walking, a book review

That a writer could fashion an entertaining and informative book on walking--walking you and I might do when we're out our front door--is notable. The Lost Art of Walking blends Nicholson's personal walks with sometimes startling, often spellbinding, accounts of other walkers in history, and a miscellany of great factoids (To wit, New Yorkers, a mere 2.7% of the nation's population, suffer a staggering 21% of pedestrian injuries by cars because pedestrian Gothamites are apt to have a snootful of booze!).

Nicholson starts The Lost Art of Walking relating a walk in the Hollywood Hills on a sunny December day, when for no reason, his walk broke down and he stumbled, began to fall; his outstretched hand met ungiving concrete. A passerby next drove him to a firestation, where after adminstering first aid, the firemen took him to a hospital emergency room, where, in their company, he jumped the queue, and learned he'd broken his arm in three places.

[book cover]

This one walking injury apparently didn't diminish Nicholson's love of walking. Walking was essential. He found after moving to L.A. and its pedestrian-unfriendly streets, he became depressed. Then he saw a newsbit from Duke University suggesting walking cured depression as effectively as antidepressants. He'd also read something similar in Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). A light went off in his head: All his adult life he'd walked: London and NYC. Why stop with L.A.?

One of the virtues of Nicholson's writing is an unflagging interest for getting details right: Street by street, he follows the footsteps of Raymond Chandler to divine the settings for the Marlowe noirs; he finds where Aldous Huxley lived in the Hollywood Hills; he walks down the Franklin Avenue of Joan Didion in her yellow Corvette days.

The famous walking characters brought to life are too numerous to single out. But speed, endurance and distance walkers are all here. (And for moon walking, the inside story that Buzz Aldrin was supposed to be first, but Neil Armstrong pulled rank on him ...).

The most touching walker profile, however, is saved for the penultimate chapter. Nicholson relates growing up in an English "council estate" (somewhat akin to an American housing project) and the carless, walking life of the poor like his family. A moving story suggests he got his walker's endurance from his mom.

If you've ever lacked motivation for more walking in your life, then Geoff Nicholson's The Lost Art of Walking is a good first step.

The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism by Geoff Nicholson, Riverhead Books, 2009, 278 pp., ISBN: 978-1-5948-403-2.

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.

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