Wanderlust: A History of Walking | Rebecca Solnit

The book starts with 24 epigraphs, you estimate how many references would be given in the actual essays.

It’s the far most comprehensive text I’ve read on the history of walking. The last collection of essays I’ve read was David Le Breton’s In Praise of Walking which cannot draw near to Solnit’s book. She contains and surpasses Le Breton.

Wanderlust starts with a pretty subjective form in the first chapter where Solnit opens up her personal passion for walking as an action in her personal life that reaches up to the anti-nuclear protests, spatio-temporal contemplations, resistance against productivity-freak society, critique of anti-democratic city planning that subjugates the public spaces and coop people up in private ones. However, there were so many descriptions and prose about the roads Solnit walks which made me think of the rest of the book as a referenced-travelogue which combines some attributions to the famous walkers while telling her own, personal walking history.

I noticed that I was wrong, as the book unwraps, Solnit leaps from the philosophers to wanderers; history of gardens (one of my favourite historiography as a non-European) to mountain tops; walking-related record holders to marches, protests, pilgrims; from the evolutionary discourses on walking humans (weirdest part); from Dickens to Abramovic; combinations of trains-cars-planes and suburbs-sun tanning-treadmills, from New Mexico to England and then to Paris and finally reaches Las Vegas. Solnit’s historical analyses of walking in relation to class, gender, mode of production gives great insights about how we think about walking today and what are the sources of these ideas.

The hazard of that wide and loaded compilation is chucking away the reader with some subjectively non-interesting passages. For example, the parts about mountaineering did not interest me that much because I’m mostly interested in urban walks. Nevertheless, someone else may think the opposite and the reader always has the right to skip -which I didn’t.

Last but not least, I enjoyed and learned a lot while reading Solnit’s feminist interventions after referencing twenty male authors about a subject. First she criticizes the authors with a witty and dark tone and proceeds with a political, historical and intellectual analysis of the era where referenced authors live and produce their ideas. The part where she criticizes and makes fun of the authors who both love walking and preaching sermons to the readers (i.e. ‘one should always walk alone’) and the pages where she subverts male authors’ memoirs (Kerouac) by replacing them with a female wanderer are exhilarating.

With a hope to encounter with Solnit in a crowded, rainwashed, neon-lit city at night,

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