Psychogeography: Disentangling the Modern Conundrum of Psyche and Place
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Psychogeography: Disentangling the Modern Conundrum of Psyche and Place

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  219 ratings  ·  41 reviews
For those interested in the connection between people and place, the best of the decade long collaboration between literary brat packer Will Self and gonzo illustrator Ralph Steadman.

Opening with a dazzling new 20,000-word essay on walking from London to New York, Psychogeography is a collection of 50 short pieces written over the last four years, together with 50 four-col...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2007)
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MJ Nicholls
Disclaimer: This book contains very little psychogeography.

Apart from the wildly entertaining opening piece where Will walks from London to New York, the other 200 pages are travel articles, typical Selfian dalliances, and hilarious blog-style writings about places home/abroad.

What makes this collection stand out are the terrific illustrations from Ralph Steadman which make the whole package an exquisite purchase for the Self devotee.
I really liked the 58-page introductory essay, “Walking to New York,” which gives Self a chance to give his own background, and to talk about some possible modes of psychogeography, all of which are centered on the question of, as he puts it, “the manner in which the contemporary world warps the relationship between psyche and place” (11). Self talks a lot about things that his own mode of psychogeography is not: it’s not travel-writing; it’s not about “discovering” a place or culture; it’s not...more
Colin Ellard
I loved much of this book. I stumbled across the book because of the title (I've written on topics that connect with psychogeography as it was originally defined by Guy DeBord) and then once I began to read remembered that I'd also read a NYT story some time ago about Self's walk from his home in London to New York via Heathrow and JFK. Other than the long description of this walk at the beginning of the book, the rest of it is made up of reprinted Psychogeography columns from the Independent wh...more
I read the first few bits and then skipped ahead to the obnoxious and bone-headed bit about Iowa ("the people are fat and the land is flat") and a few others and made a very negative determination about this author's sensibility (idiotic) and abilities (sneeringly overwritten). The illustrations are cool, but the content seemed pretty much contemptuous to me. Won't even rate it or mark it as read.
I find Self's non-fiction easier to like than his fiction. Somehow his obscure vocabulary and general cynicism seem less oppressive and annoying when they're applied to his own experiences, as opposed to the conjuring of imaginary experiences for me. However, I was disappointed by what 'psychogeography' as a field turned out to be - i.e. travel writing with none of the exoticism. I thought there'd be more to it than that. Plus I prefer Steadman's pure sketches to the part-photo illustrations tha...more
Paul Harris
If you don't like Will Self's take on modern life, you probably won't like this. If however, like me, you do appreciate his dry wit and well crafted writing style, then you will almost certainly enjoy this collection. A seemingly random arrangement of his column in The Independent newspaper is brilliantly complemented by the always excellent Ralph Steadman's illustrations.

Self writes on all manner of subjects from the mundane to the profound. Infused with his inimitable sardonic sense of humour...more
Kieran Mcmahon

Paris Street: Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte

The flâneur was, first of all, a literary type from 19th century France, essential to any picture of the streets of fin de siècle Paris. It carried a whole host of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.

The term was coined by decadent poet and anarcho-hedonist-genius Charles Baudelaire, author of Les Fleurs du Mal. Baudelaire is credited with coining the term modernité to designate the...more
Middle age has married itself to Will Self, but thankfully the exasperating cliche of its crisis was dealt with in his earlier incarnations. Here we have Will Self in his haughtier, more florid tones, and it is uncertain if he is having us on with the occasional gobbets of snobbish writing and tinderbox humour. The reader can expect to follow Mr Self on his "exotic" junkets, giving his own trademark perspectives in a re-imagining of travelogue writing under the thematic rubric of psychogeography...more

Psychogeography, according to Guy Debord, who coined the term in 1955, refers to the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment on the internal life and representations of individuals.

Put simply, psychogeography is any playfully inventive method of reconnecting directly with contemporary cities through the body, minimizing or cutting away one's reliance on the numbing comfort of mechanical transport and speed. It is the art, in other words, of extricating one'...more
Jan 20, 2008 Claire added it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I've not nearly read the whole thing, but I doubt I'm going to, considering how loosely it's organized, and how easy it is to skip over some essays into others. Happily, unlike a similarly mediocre novel, I don't feel compelled to finish it. I can't believe I even made it through the entire 70 page "walk" from London to New York. But I did, and without a dictionary too, which was a grave mistake. There are at least seventeen completely new and foreign words (to me) per one of Self's sentences. I...more
I am averaging about 2 dictionary references per page on this one. Lots of slang and neologisms. I hope they are getting somewhere...

I read a conversation with Self and geneticist Spencer Wells whilst on a plane from JFK to LAX. Of course, being utterly dislocated at that moment, and more generally for the last year due to work, as well as being a huge proponent of walking as an irreplaceable and in this day and age (and city), almost subversive way to get to know a place, the subject of psychog...more
I love Will Self.
Irrespective of his condescending manner at the book signing i attended, irrespective of the fact that he couldn't wait to get rid of me so that he could turn his attention to the willow of blondes in the queue behind me... but i digress.
Sadly, the best thing about this book are Ralph Steadman's drawings. There's nothing new for regular reader's of Mr Self's column besides the introduction, which is at least satisfyingly revealing for the biographile.
I particularly liked his ac...more
I do love Steadman's artwork and Self's writing. I kind of wish some of these were a little longer, though. Most barely seem to be getting started before they end and the next begins. They were fine as snippets, but I felt like I would have enjoyed something a little more developed.
Jo Bennie
Firstly the hardback edition here is a beautiful book, Ralf Steadman's illustrations are in full colour and intersperse Will Self's text. He speaks of journeys taken by foot, largely over urban landscapes and the palimpsest of histories that land has. His first and longest journey is from his home to Heathrow, a journey made for four wheels rather than two feet, and then from JFK to downtown Manhattan. His use of extended metaphor is just exquisite, the scatalogical and elegaic brought together...more
He says this isn't a travel book. He's wrong. It is. The "psychogeography" veil might give it a hip edge, but it only barely applies.

That being said, Self is an exceptionally charming travel guide: observant, erudite, and funny as hell. Representative line: "Kent, where chav meets Deliverance in a duel of Burberry banjos." And the Steadman drawings are fantastic.

However, I do feel he could use a better editor. Certain words should not be used more than once in a fairly short book: for example "q...more
So far, apart from the art, I don't have a lot of hope for this book. It's wordy, it's trendy -- but I'm really, really interested in this topic. What does it mean to be divorced from place? What does it say about our culture? Do we have psychological needs that need to connect us to some "land, nation, city, whatever?" Or can we continue to sprawl our lives across continents and never explore our own surroundings in any intimate way, close up, as Mr. Self does when he walks. Will a self-importa...more
By far the most difficult book I have ever read in my life. It is not a difficult to read because its dense or complex, but Will Self's vocabulary is astonishing. Be warned you need to read this alongside a dictionary.
Christopher Roth
My first Self non-fiction, after having read nearly all his fiction. Interesting just on the level of what it reveals about his life and personality and the sources for the places in his fiction (including the hidden seamy byways of London—places you can get to only on foot—that inspired the landscape of The Book of Dave), but also pretty charming and witty and lexically audacious simply as essays. Pretty much the most idiosyncratic and iconoclastic travel book I've read in a long time. And now...more
Don Naggie
I love the range of Will. I've only flipped through this book but enjoy it. For anyone aspiring to walk in the footsteps of the likes of Guy Debord and the rest of the flanuers Will is necessary research.
Jan 08, 2008 Stephanie marked it as to-read
NPR interviewed the author of this book while walking from Sea-Tac Airport to downtown Seattle. The author, Will Self, (note that in the catalog you would look him up as Self, Will)captured my attention when he said that one day he realized he had lived some three miles from the Thames his whole life and never seen the mouth of the river. He likened it to living in the Middle Ages when your entire world could be so small that a three mile distance could be a foreign country. Anyway, I haven't re...more
1. Will Self believes women are incapable of being situationists, long walkers, free thinkers, and truly mobile (in all mobilities breadth of meaning).
2. He has a tendency to slip words into passages straddling arrogant-declaration and engaging-narrative forcing readers to take a stance before moving past an upcoming period. This may be good or bad, but the point is: Self's pride is trying given the history of narrative and theory he's riding on.
3. Ralph Steadman's illustrations keep him afloat...more
Michael Palkowski
I don't think Will Self's writing is for the long ponderous journey. It demands laborious attention and consistent reference checks. The writing is hard to follow often with the esoteric obscure words and neologisms polluting the page. It makes for a long reading time. I really like the way he delivers sentences however and is a true master of the art. It cannot be chewed through in hours. Ralph's drawings are beautiful accompaniments and deserve the allocated five stars alone.

I'm a big fan of Self & psychogeography, but this is not one of his better books. There's no disentanglement here, or even any real thinking on the subject, just a collection of short – and not particularly interesting – blurbs on the author's local and world travels, with half-assed art by Steadman thrown headlong into the mix. The only thing that saves it is Self's usual dark razorwit and playfully creative language. But really, he could have been writing about anything...
I'm kinda undecided on this book. It is contains a collection of short pieces by Will Self, and imagery by Ralph Steadman. Some of the pieces by Self had very interesting insights and analysis that deepened my understanding of our relationship with the world around us, but for the most part, it felt like travel writing. I would suggest not buying this book, maybe borrow it and scan through the pieces for the handful of gems. Too late for me I guess..
Will Self employs the Situationist International concept to the 21st century's benefit, covering his travels by foot as he attempts to make sense of urban capitalist sprawl and all its residuum. Self is no travel writing bore. He cultivates wit to the point of being scholarly and despite this kind of marvelous highbrow, you will shit yourself laughing. Also, he has a vocabulary that matches only David Foster Wallace in breadth and usage.
The (lengthy) opening essay is stunning, and the rest of the book is mostly just OK. It took me way longer than it should have to realize that the book is predominantly structured as a series of two-page essays, with Steadman's drawings punctuating them, to mirror the left-right rhythm of walking and looking around. It lent the book a nice momentum, tricking you into going much further in one stretch than perhaps you would have otherwise.
This book of 55 essays is all about our relationship to place, or more accurately, it's all about Will Self's relationship to place. Culled from his eponymous column in The Independent and accompanied by Ralph Steadman's fantastically disturbed artwork, these 2-3 page pieces of travelling Gonzo are often insightful and hilarious [ read more ]
This is a fabulous collection of musings by the master of eloquent sardonicism in which he reflects on the way that he is affected by his immediate environ, from New York to India, Barcelona and beyond it is both quirky travelogue and a view from a unique perspective. Each piece is illustrated by Ralph Steadman, some of the pictures inspired Will and some of Will's stories inspired the pictures - a perfect partnership.
Inspired by the Situationist Guy Debord's early studies of the effects of geography and landscape on consciousness, this is really more a series of cranky travel notes coupled with anecdotal memoirs of drug addiction. A few comic gems but mostly nuggets of remembered angst.
Jeremy Wineberg
Interesting as a practice in psychogeography, with a few worthwhile stories scattered in the dizzying mix of people and places, but not enough to make me finish the book. His use of the language and snobbish attitude become tiring.
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William Self is an English novelist, reviewer and columnist. He received his education at University College School, Christ's College Finchley, and Exeter College, Oxford. He is married to journalist Deborah Orr.

Self is known for his satirical, grotesque and fantastic novels and short stories set in seemingly parallel universes.
More about Will Self...
Great Apes The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future How the Dead Live The Quantity Theory of Insanity My Idea of Fun

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“I’ve taken to long-distance walking as a means of dissolving the mechanised matrix which compresses the space-time continuum, and decouples human from physical geography. So this isn’t walking for leisure -- that would be merely frivolous, or even for exercise -- which would be tedious. No, to underscore the seriousness of my project I like a walk which takes me to a meeting or an assignment; that way I can drag other people into my eotechnical world view. ‘How was your journey?’ they say. ‘Not bad,’ I reply. ‘Take long?’ they enquire. ‘About ten hours,’ I admit. ‘I walked here.’ My interlocutor goggles at me; if he took ten hours to get here, they’re undoubtedly thinking, will the meeting have to go on for twenty? As Emile Durkheim so sagely observed, a society’s space-time perceptions are a function of its social rhythm and its territory. So, by walking to the business meeting I have disrupted it just as surely as if I’d appeared stark naked with a peacock’s tail fanning out from my buttocks while mouthing Symbolist poetry.” 4 likes
“I’m not an apple or a pear, I’m a banana skin, glissading through immigration.” 0 likes
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