Monday, 12 June 2017

Review: Walking, Stumbling, Limping, Falling

Psychogeography is ableist. It is, to a large extent, a pursuit of the fit. It is about walking - often lengthy walks - as a means of exploring and mythologising our cities. Not enough has been done towards including those who are less able to get about on their own legs.

However, a new book by mythogeographer Phil Smith and poet Alyson Hallett, Walking Stumbling Limping Falling, tackles that theme. It records a conversation between the two of them by email when they each in turn found their mobility limited. Alyson developed severe arthritis and eventually needed a hip replacement. Later, Phil became debilitated with a mystery illness that sapped his energy.

As publisher Triarchy Press says on its website:
For about nine months, two walking-authors/artists – Alyson Hallett and Phil Smith – found themselves wrestling with not being able to walk normally. They wrote to one another about it and, amongst other things, reflected on: prostheses, waddling, Butoh, built-up shoes, walking in pain, bad legs, vertigo, falling (and fallen) places, hubris, bad walks, scores for falling down, ​walking carefully, disappointment.
In an email to me Phil Smith added: "The book is about how Alyson and I decided we should write something together about non-normative walking and how it abruptly got very personal as Alyson ended up under the surgeon’s knife and I got so ill I couldn’t walk down my own street for weeks. We suddenly had a very close and unexpected study of our own bodies stumbling, limping, falling and finally walking again, changed. These are the field reports, thoughts, emails, wishes and poems we sent to each other."

I found the book thought-provoking. It reminded me of a time when I broke a toe and only walked in pain, with a stick, for several weeks; and the summer when my husband suffered from a herniated disc in his spine and was mostly wheelchair-bound for a few months. We are both keen walkers and being unable to take part in an activity we love was depressing.

But, like Phil and Alyson, we were lucky - we got better. Many people with limited mobility do not. I hope this book starts a movement towards more inclusive ways of doing psychogeography - but more is needed. I would also love to read reviews of this book by those who have long-term disabilities, to find out how they feel it addresses their needs. After all, I am an able-bodied person and cannot speak on behalf of those who aren't.

Walking, Stumbling, Limping, Falling
can be ordered via Amazon.

Links and previous related posts

No comments: