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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "The Lost Art of Walking" by Geoff Nicholson
By Milton M. Gross
Feb 2, 2014 - 12:05:30 AM

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I was disappointed when I read The Lost Art of Walking, because it was not actually about walking. (Near the end I found a brief description of walking.) It was stories, humor, and philosophy about those who walked. There are small drawings of footprints on the cover. Milt Gross photo.
When I came across The Lost Art of Walking, I thought it would be right up my walking alley. But instead it is stories of others -- not me -- who walked here and there.

The most interesting -- to me -- words I found were part of a paragraph, buried in the middle of the book, "The things you hear when you walk are every bit as important as the things you see, or for that matter touch, taste, and smell."

That talks about walking, and wanting to read about walking was the main reason I picked up the book in the first place.

Frankly, some of Nicholson's other titles, Sex Collectors, Footsucker, Day Trips to the Desert, and Hunters and Gatherers seem like they be more interesting than The Lost Art of Walking. This book could be called, The Lost Art of Writing about Walking, in my opinion.

To be fair, I'll share what the book's cover says about Nicholson, "Geoff Nicholson is a master chronicler of the hidden subversive twists on a seemingly normal activity. He finds people who walk only at night, or naked, or in the shape of a circle or a cross, or for thousands of miles at a time, in costume, for causes, or for no reason whatsoever. Here he brings curiosity, imagination, and genuine insight to a subject that often strides, shuffles, struts, or lopes right by us."

He also wrote what appeared to me to be fairly meaningless lines about those who walked and where they walked. For example, about a father who had abandoned his son years earlier, "He then meets his son after school and they walk home together, but instead of sharing the same sidewalk, they walk along on opposite sides of the street, doing little comic walking routines for each other's amusement...." I'm not certain where this paragraph actually went...or walked.

A following paragraph sums up, "Within the scheme of the film Travis has redeemed himself. He's become part of something. In the beginning he was a lost, crazy man walking alone through the Texas desert. In the end he's a sane man, integrated, driving along highways in his incredibly cool twenty-five-year-old classic Ranchero."

Okay, but Nicholson's thrust doesn't seem to have much to do with walking, unless my coffee isn't strong enough to show it to me. To me, with my coffee, the paragraphs about this guy and his son seem sort of pointless, meaningless, kind of so-what.

Nicholson does write that he himself has done a lot of walking, some of which he describes. He also writes about walking itself, "...You can dress it up any way you like, but walking remains resolutely simple, basic, analog. That's why I love it and love doing it. And in that respect -- stay with me on this -- it's not entirely unlike a martini. Sure you can add things to martinis, like chocolate or an olive stuffed with blue cheese or, God forbid, cotton candy, and similarly you can add things to your walks -- constraints, shapes, notions of the mapping of utopian spaces -- but you don't need to. And really, why would you? Why spoil a good drink? Why spoil a good walk?"

That, in my opinion, is the most helpful paragraph he wrote in the entire book -- about walking.

The book contains a good bit of what I took to be cynicism. Wikipedia describes Nicholson as a satirist, which I think explains that cynicism.

The Lost Art of Walking was published in 2008 by Riverhead Books, a member of the Penguin Group, New York.

I'm not sure I'd recommend this for your reading, since you probably only have a given number of years to read -- or do anything. But, if you want to, the price I found on my hardback version is $24.95. (I found my copy somewhere. Wouldn't have paid $24.99 for it.) Amazon.com lists the paperback at both $20.99 and $12.99 with Kindle at $10.99.

Happy reading...and happy walking.


Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@roadrunner.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013


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