The latest book delighting me is Lauren Elkin’s Flaneuse: Women Walk the City. Elkin is a contemporary American essayist who writes about culture, and this time has combined it with her passion for urban walking.
The flaneur is a concept of a wandering, strolling urban dilettante which emerged in Paris in the late 19th century. The idea captivated the Situationist movement and captured a character who loved to roam the city streets, to see and be seen. An exclusively a male image, writers like Will Self, have tried to define such urban walking as a curiously male activity. Elkin disagrees.
She does not think the female walkers did or do mirror or duplicate males, because the roles and identity of women in urban environments was and is so different. Hence the flaneuse.
For her own walking, she writes: Let me walk. Let me go at my own pace. Let me feel life as it moves through and around me. Give me drama. Give me unexpected curvilinear corners. Give me churches and unsettling storefronts and parks I can lie down in. The city turns you on, gets you going.moving thinking, engaging. The city is life itself.
I am only part-way into this book and I already can welcome Elkin as a fellow contemplative walker.