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On Walking: - And Stalking Sebald
On Walking: - And Stalking Sebald
by Phil Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real, 29 Jun. 2014
Books on walking: so many are what this one isn’t; “pseudo-treks for subsequent publication”. If I may be a little rude and mention the popular “The Old Ways” by Robert Macfarlane -a book I did enjoy - BUT - there are always going to be pre-arranged meetings with “interesting” people - people who can sail boats along ancient bronze-age routes: people who can use their teeth to carve figurines of the earth goddess out of flint and Neolithic sausages. Smith, however, drifts - he drifts a coastline of melancholia, beneath a looming nuclear power station, staying in b&b’s, talking and walking, and sometimes wandering through suburbia, surrounded by people, but seeing no-one. So he meets people just as interesting - and just as ordinary as you or me - and he winds up in a cellar beneath an old abattoir, “This is not a room. The blood is not in the river, the blood is here, on the floor of the cellar, dried in the dents, this is a room of meat and blood, four years of killing, we are up to our ankles in offal, I don’t know what I set out to find, but it is here, the change of quantity that changes quality, the place and time when numbers turn into a human being, a few scraps of story into a myth, a middle-aged baby drenched in rubedo.”
In-spit of some of his references being beyond me, Guy Debord, Situationists, Derivistes and wotnot, Smith is always real; tangible and unpretentious. He misses his mum, who recently died, and this sense of loss recurs throughout the book as it plays on his mind as he walks. There is a dreary stretch of walking when his mind - trudge trudge - dwells on old humiliations- a long ago spurned declaration of love (after which he fell down a man hole) - trudge trudge - a regretted and unresolved falling out with a friend - trudge trudge - the reality of all this communicates - common ground - the book is never an exercise in narcissism.
All the time there is a freshness of vision, a conscious framing of experiences. “Art” self-consciously puts vision into boxes - commodifies it for external and distanced examination. Smith transgresses the boundaries of art, as he makes us question our acceptance of the culturally determined orderings of history and geography we can so easily take for granted. He helps us stay alive, curious and awake.


Devonshire Folk Tales
Devonshire Folk Tales
by Michael Dacre
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Labour of Love, 2 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Devonshire Folk Tales (Paperback)
Folk tale books can often be rather bland and entirely dependent on the book that's come before. Not this one; this is a labour of love, and shows a real love and knowledge of the county. You know that Michael Dacre has been out there and walked and felt the stories, listened to them; and told them - not just written them down!!


Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways
Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways
by Phil Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £28.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired wanderings, 25 Feb. 2012
I'm not sure how a review can do this wondrous compendium justice. It animates the world with meaning; not the fake cliched meaning of the heritage industry, but the realities, often uncomfortable, that create and conjoin the structures around us. It ranges from the radical geography of Doreen Massey, to the superb storytelling of Crab Man; it can refer to the urban paranoia of anonymous 1980s writers, and the oak tree wanderings of an acorn planting engineer in 1910. I haven't started at the beginning and read to the end, I've dipped in and come out with something new every time - something that further enhances my view of my surroundings, and develops my critical faculties. And yet - the book isn't a collection of bits, it is a cohesive whole, with a consistant philosophy and outlook. Perhaps, as suggested by the cover, it is a tool box as much as a book.
It should be central to any library - placed between the Bible and the Book of Sodom.


Denbighshire Folk Tales
Denbighshire Folk Tales
by Fiona Collins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Hiraethog, 25 Feb. 2012
Fiona Collins has done a great service here, by telling the tales of a lesser known county. She has done it beautifully, and the stories are animated by a warmth and humanity. She is also very thorough in the way she provides and credits her sources, but the stories all have her own, personal, storytellers touch. She made me want to visit the county, and particularly Hiraethog, an area I hadn't heard of, but which seems to contain that evocative word hiraeth, which I believe means something like longing for place, or homeland.


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