Drift

Psycho-geography is fascinating me. Psycho-geography was defined in 1955 by Guy Debord, a French situationist and writer, as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” You cannot hide from it in London.  The architecture pervades your existence. The depth of history – the thousands of nuances and stories – is always just under the surface.  All the eyes that have seen what you see, it gives you the feeling that perhaps you have only been lent your vision – that what you see is not somehow yours to keep. Yet these moments, your experiences, they are only your own and these are still, somehow, constantly unique. Literary journalism and psycho-geography have a habit of converging. W.G Sebald, a favourite author of mine, and Will Self lurk on the edges of these fields. Sebald’s classic Austerlitz was placed in The Times Top 100 Books of The Decade last weekend. I have issues with some of the choices but not this one for it is a stunning work. East London is the centre for much of Sebald’s meandering – walking is a tenet of the psycho-geographer – as such I think it a must-read for any out-of-towner settling into the E’s.  The books haunting themes of dislocation, memory and faded grandeur combined with Sebald’s ability to reflect the poignant mundaneness of existence, the ecstatic glimpsed through the soporific, just gives me the urge to walk a thousand miles. I had a wonderful experience walking from Manhattan Beach to LAX Airport earlier this year. I felt I learnt more about LA in two hours than any guidebook could have taught me. That I ended up in handcuffs chatting to LAPD’s finest about the merits of Paulo Wanchope whilst surrounded by shotguns in a squad car on the way to the International Departures Terminal is pure anecdote enhancing frippery. Walking put me in touch with the gleamingly-barren-sprawl-cum-4×4-hive that is LA in a way that a yellow cab ride couldn’t ever dream.

Californian psycho-geography links me with Will Self once again. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate for an hour, yesterday I was gripped by Self for 54mins. This is the man himself defining pscyho-geography for the folk at Google Towers in San Francisco, or you can read his views on Sebald if you prefer…

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One response to “Drift

  1. Wow this is really interesting

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