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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 29 May 2008
I bought this on the strength of the other reviews and wish now I hadn't wasted my money. The book is badly produced (you need a better editor, proof reader, and setter, Mr C), is extremely narrow in its scope, and concentrates only on those aspects of the subject that are already well known.

As a subject, psychogeography predates civilization (pagan peoples knew how geography was integral to psychology). The concentration on recent urban p-g, and the insistence that only London and Paris really count (despite a nod to New York) ignores the long rural tradition as well as p-g in other urban settings around the world.

The author's knowledge and understanding of Alfred Watkins' work and its impact is poor. Which leads one to wonder just how well he really knows the rest of the subject. His attempt to assert that Ackroyd is outside the tradition as he somehow conservative rather misses the point that urba p-g as a whole is both conservative and somewhat obsessed with the notion of a golden age.

Where the book does have a strength is in pointing out that for some people p-g is a method to some other end rather than an end in itself. Attempts to turn it into a science have so far met with failure simply because the amount of data required to make any form of realistic assessment are simply overwhelming. As an artistic method (particularly in literature and film) it is highly sucessful as it seems that an artistic sensibility and sensitivity are required to process and interpret a landscape and the figures that move within it.

There are better books on the subject. But anyone wanting to know what p-gis would be far better off seeking out p-g artists and writers.
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on 5 January 2011
This book out of all others I have looked at for understanding psychogeography - its history, influences, definition, and urban wandering and the people involved.Its an easy read and really motivates you to do your own psychogeography whilst walking - you can take yourself, your dog, friend, child or invisible traveler - who knows!
It has been so beneficial for me in writing my thesis about identity to place - it helps explain in an interesting way what places we live in the world and how they change all the time in a physical sense with the same speed as the latest fashion or tv channels - without us realising... you will see your home town, street appear in a new way.... there are some great artists utilising these concepts all the time and this is the reason I selected this book and so glad I had because Coverley covers this topic really well and I applaud him.
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on 8 May 2012
Overall, this is a good little book; it explores psychogeography in acessible but still thought-provoking terms. It's not an academic book, which makes it all the more readable, but don't expect anything too detailed dense from it. Use this as an introduction to the concepts/contexts etc. It also has a chapter discussing the rooting of psychogeography in London through de Quincey and Stevenson etc., and with it being what I had thought was more of a Parisian concept, that was particularly interesting!
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on 12 November 2008
i have sympathy for the positive and the negative reviews of this book, though i must say i zipped through it and liked it a lot. it is a 'pocket essential' introduction to the ideas of psychogeography. it traces psychogeography from bases in london (defoe, machen, blake, de quincey, sinclair, home, keiller) and paris (baudelaire, benjamin, debord). It introduces the ideas and although there is much left out [i personally think frank o'hara is the psychogeographer of new york] and although it is very london-paris-centric it does raise questions and gives interesting facts. Not bad at all, but I'm waiting on a really really great intro to psychogeography. oh and i agree with the reviewer who said merlin requires a better editor and proof reader. i went looking for chtcheglov's name spelled chtchelgov, since that is how it is spelled at one time in the book, and at others it is spelled correctly. i mean: is it not a difficult enough name as it is???
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on 23 October 2013
This book opens a whole new world to anyone not familiar with the delights and conundrums of urban wandering, and gives confidence to those who are. It describes and echoes the experience and development of an interplay between mind and geographical surroundings in rural or urban scenery. How undull life can be, where once it looked only dreary! How important it is to resist "redevelopmet" that drives out humanity and the past. Also it shows how we can conduct imaginery journeys: rooted in Defoe's Robinsin Crusoe; and how actual wandering was first descibed by Defoe's novel on the London Plague, as the familiar became strange.. Roaming idly and observantly in a small area is definitely not time wasted! Here is a reassertion of humaness against rational mechanical destruction.
A book to open your eyes and mind!
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on 27 November 2006
A great introduction to psychogeography from Defoe and De Quincey via Debord and the Situationists and on to the present day. Lively, fluent and well researched, this book takes you on a fascinating journey through London, Paris and the literature that these cities have inspired. Highly Recommended.
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on 30 October 2009
Despite Pilgrim's mostly accurate (but rather unkind) review, this is an engaging introduction to psychogeography's London/Paris-centric literary aspects. If you take it as a good analysis of this one facet, you'll be more than well enough rewarded. Time for "updated and enlarged" Mr Coverley?
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on 16 October 2006
Psychogeography by Merlin Coverley is a Pocket Essentials Guide book that offers an introduction to Psychogeography in an easily-digested form. Coverley's drift covers what he calls the literary tradition of psychogeogaphy and concentrates on the London-Paris axis. He traces an outline back to the surrealists' exploration of the magical city, back through John Michell, Walter Benjamin and Alfred Watkins to William Blake and forwards to J G Ballard, Iain Sinclair, Stewart Home & the London Psychogeographic Association (LPA).

I find the book valuable in both its narrow view and in what it leaves out. One thing that has been very distinctive about psychogeography is that it trangresses artificial borders and externally imposed taxonomies. Blake is known as both a radical literary figure and as the guy who did the words to "Jerusalem" that they sing at the Tory party conference. His self-published work blurred the boundaries between "literature" and "visual art" in much the same way as today's "graphic novels" do.

In the other examples Coverley refers to, the psychogeographer's work often uses text, but in a way that text dematerialises, where fiction blurs with fact, rumour and hearsay. Iain Sinclair's books are often heavily illustrated and he also regularly collaborates with photographers and film-makers. According to Jeff Nuttall's book, Bomb Culture the novellist JG Ballard, whose work is firmly rooted in surrealism as it is in the suburban landscape was also a pioneer of Installation Art. The output of the LPA has included experiments with hypertext on the [...] The LPA's publications often make no sense at all without the collision of text, photographs and diagrams. In short Psychogeography occurs as a literary stream, within hypertext. By hypertext I mean not only text that is linked to other text via mark-up language, but also text that refers to and is made up of existing texts, twisting the memetic structure of the infosphere.

While finding a centre has been a concern of many psychogeographers, it has long been clear that the centre (or Omphalos) is a shifting and a rambling thing, so it could be London, it could be Paris, but the chances are that is really elsewhere.

Within the text Coverley plays with the psychogeographers' tricks of bilocation. Stewart Home's novel 69 Things to Do With A Dead Princess, a novel apparently set in Scotland, becomes a "London Novel". So London is explored using a Hobbit's map of the Scottish stone circles.

The pocket guide probably belongs as a small chapter in a bigger book about psychogeography, but until that one is written, it is a welcome introduction to the subject.
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on 16 February 2009
...although it could have been called "Psychogeography - an overview" or "introduction". Coverly succeeds in giving the reader a cogent, lyrical and sober account of the roots and genetic history of the subject. It could so easily have been a wilfully obscure or overly complicated un-decoding of the subject and ended up as a pretentious meta text that would have succeeded in doing no more than proving how difficult Psychogeography is to pin down, let alone articulate. However, full marks (well, four out of five) to Coverly for writing a book that explains clearly the 'who what how and why' of Psychogeography. The only minor criticism is that there is some repetition of content which makes it read occasionally like a very good undergraduate dissertation. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as at least you do feel as though your are being directed by a passionate voice through the back alleys of this playful and curious subject.
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on 20 November 2008
I had heard about psychogeography but couldn't quite work out what people were talking about so this book provided a really good introduction. It looked at the literary tradition and the flaneur and the situationists, looking mostly at Paris and London (and very briefly New York) and it gave me a long list of novels, nonfiction books and films to look into.
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