Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bookmarks -- Wanderlust: A History of Walking

I loved this book, but I do have to get my one problem I had with it 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. 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 aside, I can still say that this is a terrific book, 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 with her personal experiences concerning her subject.

Rebecca 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 for many years, and that much rests on the fight, not only for public space. Near the end of the book, she writes, "The fight for free space -- for wilderness and for public space-- must be accompanied by a fight for free time to spend wandering that space."

But Wanderlust is not a manifesto. It is filled with fascinating stories about the people and places where this history continues to live and be written. And even for me, one who has found great value in the simple walk, Solnit's book has inspired me to make walking not just exercise, but an integral part of life.

No comments: