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Scarp: In Search of London's Outer Limits

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  91 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Nick Papadimitriou has spent a lifetime living on the margins, walking and documenting the landscapes surrounding his home in Child's Hill, North London, in a study he calls Deep Topography.

Part meditation on nature and walking, part memoir and part social history, his arresting debut is first and foremost a personal inquiry into the spirit of a place: a 14-mile broken ri
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 21st 2012 by Sceptre
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3.99  · 
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 ·  91 ratings  ·  19 reviews

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MJ Nicholls
Scarp is a document of ‘deep topography,’ an offshoot of psychogeography caught up with memory, and the material dredged up by certain places with traumatic or nostalgic associations—instead of being shaken into a new awareness of the urban landscape, this discipline seems more masochistic and maudlin. Nick explores the region in which as a nihilistic teen he committed arson and was taken to prison, weaving his experiences into a poetic thicket of descriptive prose that includes strange drifts i ...more
Stewart Home
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the wackier books I’ve seen published by a corporate press in recent years. It is a mix of memoir, north of London local history and drug-fucked fantasy. It comes across as the written equivalent of a Godfrey Ho movie where various elements are cut together with a total disregard for narrative and logical sense. Does the Godfrey Ho school of exploitation film-making work on the written page? Well if you wanna know the answer you could do worse than check out Scarp.

My favourite lin
Jonathan Norton
Nick Papadimitriou wanders around the expanse of "Scarp", a region he has defined to the North East of London. Like Iain Sinclair the walking tour is a peg to which he attaches his own musings and recollections, mostly about a troubled adolescence in the 70s that ended in a spell in prison. We also get his imagined communings with the past, and pseudo-visionary passages. These don't convince in the slightest as anything more than fictions contrived at a writing desk miles away (as with all "psyc ...more
Toby Young
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I don't know what happened to this guy but he was around quite a bit two or three years back. I watched a video about him on Youtube and listened to a radio series he made about topography. Intrigued, I picked up a copy of this in a remainder bookshop for three quid and was astonished.

Scarp is an intensely powerful piece of writing. Centred on a sort of survey of a belt of high ground to the north of London, it also dips in and out of the author's personal life, particularly his adolescence. Pap
Martin Gerwin
Aug 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Scarp utilizes a decidedly unusual thematic throughout, and it's a mixture of memoir, travelogue, fantasy and psychogeography, all taking place within the 17-mile north Middlesex/south Hertfordshire escarpment . It seems from a cursory scan to be a haphazard patchwork of styles, but it is held together by some extraordinarily beautiful prose. The fragments of his personal history shed much needed light on the author’s current psychogeographic monomania.

Rather than pepper the book with bite-size
Apr 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was an brillant and very strange book which for me turned into a multi-media experience where I traced the author’s wanderings on Google Streetview and Streetmap and also delved into the stories behind some of the nature writers, sewage farms, murders and road traffic accidents. I also ended up listening to some 1970s prog rock ( Kevin Ayers, Egg ) which was mentioned in the strange story of the Gloria Queen of the Psychedelic Ancients of Lower Saxony cult. Other shapeshifting spirits which ...more
Alex Sarll
Apr 18, 2014 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Yes, there's some lovely bits here about the beauty of the disregarded, overgrown lands on London's margins, and the dubious charms of outer suburbia...but there are dozens of writers who can do that stuff, and too often this feels like a Pooter-style pastiche, Diary of a Psychogeographical Nobody. Sentences frequently collapse into bathetic details, and the attempts at ventriloquising local residents past and present would be embarrassing as creative writing class exercises. Ultimately, this is ...more
Mike Mcconnell
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Much to love about the prose and content. Liked the description of a Badger's face as "...a mint humbug with teeth and tuberculosis."
My friend Alex sums it up very well here.

Here is a review by Alex:
Anders Hanson
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
The subject matter of this book is something that appeals to me a lot. It's the deep immersion in a place, a topography, its history and an observation in to what makes it really distinctive. But some of the more abstract flights of fancy in this book such as his imagined 'life as a rook' and the historical fiction, felt like a distraction from what would otherwise have been a more interesting read. The exception I'd say was Nick Papadimitriou's autobiographical passages about his childhood and ...more
Grim-Anal King
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Much better at being psycho than addressing geography. Was the latter just an excuse to be self-indulgent with the former? Was it all embellished anyway? Were the flights of fancy with outlandish characters just padding or did the author think he was digging deep with this imagined reality? Difficult to say, but leaving me with so many questions after writing about somewhere so ostensibly humdrum is a success of sorts.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous writing, even if you have to slow yourself down to appreciate the minutiae. A shame that writing like this is remaindered!
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first glance you might take this for one of those quirky ‘walking memoirs’ that are fairly popular right now; the bright, handsome cover and accompanying blurb suggest something which occupies a similar territory to Roger Deakin or Rebecca Solnit; something that wouldn’t look too out of place amongst the Caught by the River collective, perhaps. I don't write any of this with disdain - all of the above are things I enjoy reading. I enjoy writing on nature and history that isn’t too technical o ...more
Mike Newman
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's a long time since I felt the need to write about a book I'd read on here, at least as directly as this - but perhaps it's something I should do more often. The irony of reading "Scarp" in the middle of Glasgow, while the city moved quickly to take advantage of unexpected sunshine wasn't lost on me. George Square glistened in the light, pale skinned, blinking office workers emerging for their lunch break. Spending it with trouser legs and skirts rolled up, shades on while feet away, propped ...more
J.F. Lawrence
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scarp is mapped yet unmappable, ancient and venerable in its bedrock physicality yet beyond the cartographer’s ken. Scarp is Nick Papadimitriou, progenitor of deep topography, and Nick Papadimitriou is Scarp. They interpenetrate each other, create and sustain each other’s reality and each other’s dream. Scarp the place is a secular locus of the mysterium, ungraspable by its seer as he trudges across its plains, traces its causeways and culverts, notes with a botanist’s rigour its flora and an an ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a strange book in so many ways, it a a physical journey around the escarpment of land around the north of London. But he also takes a wander through his past, and family, reminiscing about his avoidance of school, prison life and his drug experiences.

Some of the prose is beautiful; he has a wonderful turn of phrase, and his observational detail is superb. It does get very surreal at times, where the book reaches some of the darker depths of his mind. The writing reminds me of Ian Sinclai
David Seligman
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The physical and mental ramblings of Nick Papadimitriou as he wanders the 'green belt'
the half ruined half conserved countryside on the edge of London where I started my hiking career with my dad in the 1950s. Little stretches of sublime beauty merge into modern housing estates, pylons and people who would not think about a tree unless it blew down and hit them. It is a sort of saga of mindless modern Britain where people drive 300 yards and there seems to be a supermarket on
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was recommended this book by a librarian friend. It is a strange book, recording a journey along the escarpment of land around the north of London (much of which is familiar to me). The author also reviews his past, and family, reminiscing about his many misdemeanors. Some of the prose is interesting, and his observational detail is superb (often too detailed for me). It does get very surreal at times, and I lost interest later on, although I did finish it (I always do).
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book for a North Londoner, curious about the highways and byways of Edgware, Finchley, Southgate and such places. Nick Papadimitiou digs up some true crime shockers, some car crashes from old newspaper accounts, and manages to interweave these found materials with fictional and lyrical excursions, his own autobiography, the tracing of outflow pipes and buried rivers, and the naming of wildflowers. A heady mix. I read it much quicker than it took to walk.
Richard Fletcher
rated it it was ok
Jul 24, 2014
Anna Stenning
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Mar 06, 2013
Andrew Ray
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Paul Dembina
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Aug 28, 2013
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Jan 30, 2017
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