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THE LOST ART OF WALKING

THE HISTORY, SCIENCE, PHILOSOPHY, AND LITERATURE OF PEDESTRIANISM

Great fun.

British-born Nicholson (Sex Collectors, 2006, etc.) muses amiably on the pleasures of walking.

The author began work on this story-filled volume with a jaunt through the Hollywood Hills near his home in Los Angeles, promptly took a header and broke his right forearm in three places, thereby joining the ranks of Aldous Huxley, Thomas Jefferson, Oliver Sacks and others who walked and fell. Nicholson was soon back on his feet, fortunately, to delight us with this discursive historical account of the who, what, where, why, when and how of walking, including his own adventures on the streets of Los Angeles, Manhattan and elsewhere. “Setting foot in a street makes it yours in a way that driving down it never does,” he writes. He once walked the length of London’s busy Oxford Street six times (a distance of 20 miles) on the sixth day of the sixth month of 2006 for the sheer perverse pleasure of doing it, he confesses. Nicholson holds forth on eccentric walkers, walking in songs (“Walkin’ After Midnight”) and movies (“Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!”), street photography, walking tours and walking in literature, from Ray Bradbury’s story “The Pedestrian” to Paul Auster’s strolling detective in City of Glass. He recounts his experiences walking and hitchhiking across the United States; walking home as a child in working-class Sheffield, England; walking defiantly in parking lots; and strolling on Harlem’s 135th Street, where someone shouted, “White man! White man!” We learn that unborn babies make walking motions at 17 weeks; that it takes 35 miles of walking to lose one pound; that cars in New York injure 15,000 pedestrians each year; and that Charles Dickens, a great walker, casually invited guests on pre-dinner walks that often lasted for hours. Nicholson has walked everywhere from the Mojave Desert to the floor of Harrods, and many readers will wish they could join him on his next perambulation.

Great fun.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59448-998-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2008

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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