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.