From Dickensian London to today’s megacities—what urban walking tells us about modern life
There is no such thing as a false step. Every time we walk we are going somewhere. Especially if we are going nowhere. Moving around the modern city is not a way of getting from A to B, but of understanding who and where we are. In a series of riveting intellectual rambles, Matthew Beaumont retraces episodes in the history of the walker since the mid-nineteenth century.
From Dickens’s insomniac night rambles to restless excursions through the faceless monuments of today’s neoliberal city, the act of walking is one of self-discovery and self-escape, of disappearances and secret subversions. Pacing stride for stride alongside literary amblers and thinkers such as Edgar Allan Poe, André Breton, H. G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys and Ray Bradbury, Beaumont explores the relationship between the metropolis and its pedestrian life.
Through these writings, Beaumont asks: Can you get lost in a crowd? What are the consequences of using your smartphone in the street? What differentiates the nocturnal metropolis from the city of daylight? What connects walking, philosophy and the big toe? And can we save the city—or ourselves—by taking to the pavement?