Wednesday, 9 January 2008

A fancy word for walking around strange places

Will Self’s fiction often lingers in urban hinterlands. He is a laureate of the strangeness of the functional. His prose describes hospital buildings, underpasses, flyovers. Anywhere indeed where there is a pervading sense of dislocation.

It is hardly surprising to learn therefore that the author likes to walk in such environments. And being Will Self, he has a rather long and prohibitive word for these danders – “psychogeography”.

I stand to be corrected, but I believe what he may be trying to say is that many urban environments are not designed with the pedestrian in mind and that therefore walking in them is a strange experience which reclaims that geography as something experienceable on an immediate human level. In undertaking these walks Self is re-establishing a sense of place which can easily be lost in the hustle and bustle of merely living our lives in functional topographies.

If you need justification for drunkenly wandering up the hard shoulder of a motorway, if you’ve been caught trespassing in an industrial complex or if you're just too tight to get a taxi from the airport, psychogeography is a fine excuse.

Will Self’s new book of travel essays is called Psychogeography.

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