studies in travel writing

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Smith, Phil, Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2010).

The book is: 2 parts story:

This section is the gloriously funny and endlessly fascinating account of the author's recent journey on foot across the north of England in the footsteps of a man who made the same journey 100 years ago sowing acorns in the company of a dog called Pontiflunk.

1 part handbook:
The "handbook of drifting" and the "orrery" later in the book have ideas on walking like a stalker, like a swimmer, like a ghost, like an explorer, like a pilgrim... and that's just the start. Learn about how to organise your own procession, the philosophy of walking, crabs in society, UFOs in Devon, Uri Geller, the political geography of cities, the madness of municipal history and much, much more (as they say).

As the author puts it:

'From the transnational pilgrim to the person who 'drifts off' on the way to the shops, Mythogeography addresses the means, uses and consequences of 'walking sideways', of deploying the ordinary act of walking as a lever to prise the lid off everyday life.

This book is not entirely conventional. It consists of an assemblage of sometimes unreliable, sometimes fractious documents hung around a flawed, yet epic tale of a journey in search of oak trees. It floats numerous narratives around this travelogue, weaving a matrix of possible trajectories for the reader from passive contemplation to wild pilgrimage and activist pedestrianism. The book's second half contains advice, tasks, guidance, kits and mental maps: a toolbag of information and suggestions for the reader who wants to take the next step. Mixing entrepreneurial drive, rambling discourses and post-dramatic performance with soft architecture and post-politics-politics, Mythogeography is a guide to strolling in the cracks in the pavement and a means to walking out on the Spectacle.'


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Studies in Travel Writing (journal)
Centre for Travel Writing Studies (Nottingham Trent University)

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