Who walks alone in the streets at night? The sad, the mad, the bad. The lost, the lonely. The hypomanic, the catatonic. The sleepless, the homeless. All the city's internal exiles.
“Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night,” wrote the poet Rupert Brooke. If nightwalking is a matter of “going astray” in the streets of the metropolis after dark, then nightwalkers represent some of the most suggestive and revealing guides to the neglected and forgotten aspects of the city.
Out this month by Matthew Beaumont, Nightwalking - a nocturnal history of walking in London - shines a light on the shadowy perambulations of poets, novelists and thinkers: Chaucer and Shakespeare; William Blake, the supreme nightwalker Charles Dickens; and many more. Walking in the city is revealed as a place divided between work and pleasure, the affluent and the indigent, where the entitled and the desperate jostle in the streets.
Now out in paperback is one of our bestsellers - A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros. In this book he charts the many different ways we get from A to B — the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble — and reveals what they say about us.
Also out in paperback this month is The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International by McKenzie Wark. “If I read a more entertaining and thought-provoking work on cultural phenomena this year, I will be, frankly, astonished” said Nick Lezard in his Guardian review of the book. We agree. Re-reading the group’s history in the light of our contemporary experience of communications, architecture, and everyday life, shaping situationist psychology among urban explorers for the eventuality of the situationist city.
Inspired by these brilliant, newly published books, we present Verso's updated guide to political walking - after all, there's no such thing as a good walk unless your nose is firmly stuck in a book.
Simon Armstrong is the book buyer for Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London. Instead of an end of year list of art and design bestsellers, he sent us a list of some of the best books he has been reading on the bus to work in 2014:
Private Life: Why We Remain In The Dark
The notion of personal privacy viewed through the prism of psychoanalysis, with literature and film references tossed around everywhere. The effect is rather like squeezing your brain into a Soda Stream - thoughts collide, bubble up, fizz and pop in this excellent book of ideas. It's all very internet-and-personal-information debate relevant, with the added bonus of being a brilliant primer on Sigmund Freud.