Hot Best Seller

Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London

Availability: Ready to download

'Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [flanne-euhr], an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities. That is an imaginary definition.' If the word flâneur conjures up visions of Baudelaire, boulevards and bohemia – then what exactly is a flâneuse? In this gloriously provocative and celebratory book, Lauren Elkin defines her as ‘a de 'Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [flanne-euhr], an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities. That is an imaginary definition.' If the word flâneur conjures up visions of Baudelaire, boulevards and bohemia – then what exactly is a flâneuse? In this gloriously provocative and celebratory book, Lauren Elkin defines her as ‘a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk’. Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between the city and creativity through a journey that begins in New York and moves us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo and London, exploring along the way the paths taken by the flâneuses who have lived and walked in those cities. From nineteenth-century novelist George Sand to artist Sophie Calle, from war correspondent Martha Gellhorn to film-maker Agnes Varda, Flâneuse considers what is at stake when a certain kind of light-footed woman encounters the city and changes her life, one step at a time.


Compare

'Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [flanne-euhr], an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities. That is an imaginary definition.' If the word flâneur conjures up visions of Baudelaire, boulevards and bohemia – then what exactly is a flâneuse? In this gloriously provocative and celebratory book, Lauren Elkin defines her as ‘a de 'Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [flanne-euhr], an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities. That is an imaginary definition.' If the word flâneur conjures up visions of Baudelaire, boulevards and bohemia – then what exactly is a flâneuse? In this gloriously provocative and celebratory book, Lauren Elkin defines her as ‘a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk’. Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between the city and creativity through a journey that begins in New York and moves us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo and London, exploring along the way the paths taken by the flâneuses who have lived and walked in those cities. From nineteenth-century novelist George Sand to artist Sophie Calle, from war correspondent Martha Gellhorn to film-maker Agnes Varda, Flâneuse considers what is at stake when a certain kind of light-footed woman encounters the city and changes her life, one step at a time.

30 review for Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    Ugh, Flâneuse was such a disappointment. It doesn't really deliver what it promises; it just reads like a bunch of research papers Lauren Elkin has written and strung together with a flimsy scaffold of personal reflections. The writing is not nearly as lively as I'd hoped and neither is Elkin; at one point she describes herself as "no rebel," and she's right, she isn't. I'm giving this 3 stars because there were a few interesting sections and some insights worth underlining, but I don't recommen Ugh, Flâneuse was such a disappointment. It doesn't really deliver what it promises; it just reads like a bunch of research papers Lauren Elkin has written and strung together with a flimsy scaffold of personal reflections. The writing is not nearly as lively as I'd hoped and neither is Elkin; at one point she describes herself as "no rebel," and she's right, she isn't. I'm giving this 3 stars because there were a few interesting sections and some insights worth underlining, but I don't recommend it. Might I suggest Paris Was a Woman, The Dead Ladies Project, Spinster, or the Virginia Woolf chapter of Men Explain Things to Me instead?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    I've always thought of myself as a flaneur- the passionate street wanderer who learns the city by foot- ever since the first day I moved to a city (Montreal) six years ago for undergrad. I've since transplanted to Boston, but the feeling is the same: this city is mine, it knows my feet, we trust one another, we know each other's forms, we are familiar with the sensation of physical contact with each other. There is no better way to befriend a city than to walk it. It has taken me a year, a year I've always thought of myself as a flaneur- the passionate street wanderer who learns the city by foot- ever since the first day I moved to a city (Montreal) six years ago for undergrad. I've since transplanted to Boston, but the feeling is the same: this city is mine, it knows my feet, we trust one another, we know each other's forms, we are familiar with the sensation of physical contact with each other. There is no better way to befriend a city than to walk it. It has taken me a year, a year during which I hated Boston violently, but after thousands of hours spent wandering her streets, I have come to love and respect her. She is not home, she will never be my beloved Montreal, but she has her hidey-holes and precious haunts and sacred spaces, just as Montreal did. And I would not have come to this feeling had I not wandered her on foot. That is why I was so excited when I discovered this book's existence. It takes the image of a "flaneur"- a male word- and examines the possibility of the "flaneuse", the feminine version of the word. This book examines the implicit issues of that- the female cannot walk through a city in the same way a male does, it will be different, altered. People will raise eyebrows to see a woman walking alone at night. Men will watch her form as it goes past. Some may follow her. The city is not friendly to the female form. But the flaneuse subverts these possibilities and walks anyway, becoming an androgynous set of eyes taking in the city. Lauren Elkin discusses her own experiences as a flaneuse in the cities she has lived in. She examines the experiences of wandering cities of various female writers, photographers, artists, and filmmakers. There's one chapter where a scene in a movie is examined in extreme depth that I found pretty boring. I haven't seen the movie, and tbh the deep analysis of the scene didn't seem to contribute much to the book. Beyond that though, I have no complaints. Very readable, insanely quotable (if you're someone who likes to think of themselves as a flaneur, as I do), wonderfully lyrical. "An attempt to claim an undengered place in the city by walking through it. Whether or not we want to be androgynous eyes taking in the city, or bodies inviting desire, or any of the myriad ways of being in between, we can integrate ourselves into the world of the city by becoming attentive to the shifts in the afective landscape. It is only in becoming aware of the invisible boundaries of the city that we can challenge them. A female flanerie- a flaneuserie- not only changes the way we move through space, but intervenes in the organisation of space itself. We claim our right to disturb the peace, to observe (or not observe), to occupy (or not occupy), and to organise (or disorganise) space on our own terms."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Prerna

    How much of our identities are actually rooted firmly in the places we live in? And supposing it is a large, unignorable component, is it also inescapable? Or, as Gertrude Stein put it, "But what good are roots if you can't take them with you?" Lauren Elkin makes a case for discovering ourselves and the spaces we occupy through flâneusing, or wandering aimlessly - a leisure that historically women have been deprived of. Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [fla How much of our identities are actually rooted firmly in the places we live in? And supposing it is a large, unignorable component, is it also inescapable? Or, as Gertrude Stein put it, "But what good are roots if you can't take them with you?" Lauren Elkin makes a case for discovering ourselves and the spaces we occupy through flâneusing, or wandering aimlessly - a leisure that historically women have been deprived of. Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [flanne-euhr], an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities. As Elkin introspects philosophically into the subject, she attempts to trace the steps of a few famous women through various cities - Jean Rhys, Geroge Sand, Agnes Varda in Paris, Virginia Woolf in London and Sophie Calle in Venice. These women shared intimate relationships with the spaces they inhabited and conveyed it through their art. I might even have given this book five stars if not for the Tokyo chapter. What bothered me is that Elkin didn't have anything pleasant to say about Tokyo - the only non-Western city included in the book. She does not examine the life of any woman who lived in Tokyo, she does not even walk around Tokyo much and she criticizes Barthes who praised Tokyo in his writings. She only has one thing to offer in the Tokyo chapter - the utter despair she experienced while living there. I don't even see the point of including Tokyo in the book - it clearly isn't written about like the rest of the cities and the chapter seems like a long, sad, hard-to-read diary entry. (She even included excerpts from her diary in this chapter and all of them can be reduced to "I am miserable here, Tokyo sucks.") However, the writing overall is quite poignant. A few days ago, a women's group in my hometown organized a march to protest the rising number of rape cases in India and the lack of efficiency in handling them. But, just as we convened at the scheduled time, permission was retracted by the city authorities - because it was after 7 pm. Though furious, we were also determined. They might have stopped us once, but they cannot stop us forever. We will march with purpose, but we will also flâneuse. With the indignation and the nonchalance that each of them require. Claim the streets sisters, we shall prevail! Space is not neutral. Space is a feminist issue. The space we occupy – here in the city, we city dwellers – is constantly remade and unmade, constructed and wondered at. ‘Space is a doubt,’ wrote Georges Perec; ‘I have constantly to mark it, to designate it. It’s never mine, never given to me, I have to conquer it.’ From Tehran to New York, from Melbourne to Mumbai, a woman still can’t walk in the city the way a man can.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Olivia (Stories For Coffee)

    I’ll be honest; I skimmed a majority of this book. I assumed this book would recount the author’s life in various cities and how they differ in terms of cityscapes, how women hold themselves, and the author’s experiences wandering through these cities. But instead it examined various feminists throughout history and their experience in certain cities, and I just could not rouse any interest in the book. I also didn’t appreciate how critical and negative the author was of Tokyo and Japanese cultu I’ll be honest; I skimmed a majority of this book. I assumed this book would recount the author’s life in various cities and how they differ in terms of cityscapes, how women hold themselves, and the author’s experiences wandering through these cities. But instead it examined various feminists throughout history and their experience in certain cities, and I just could not rouse any interest in the book. I also didn’t appreciate how critical and negative the author was of Tokyo and Japanese culture in general. It left a terrible taste in my mouth.

  5. 4 out of 5

    William Southwell-Wright

    20% of this book is about what you think it would be about, and what is has largely been sold as: an account of the way notable women artists/writers have experienced urban space. The other 80% is some very narcissistic, self-mythologising, and uninteresting accounts by Elkin of her own privileged and uninteresting life. I was very disappointed by this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Trin

    The first problem with this book is that I've read better versions of it multiple times. Maeve Brennan's The Long-Winded Lady, Vivian Gornick's The Odd Woman and the City, Kate Bolick's Spinster -- even Edmund White's The Flaneur does a better job discussing marginalized groups walking the streets of Paris. My favorite flânerie, I think, is about looking outward: observing others, watching the buildings and the streets. Elkin's book seems to be primarily about how much she loves France, how much The first problem with this book is that I've read better versions of it multiple times. Maeve Brennan's The Long-Winded Lady, Vivian Gornick's The Odd Woman and the City, Kate Bolick's Spinster -- even Edmund White's The Flaneur does a better job discussing marginalized groups walking the streets of Paris. My favorite flânerie, I think, is about looking outward: observing others, watching the buildings and the streets. Elkin's book seems to be primarily about how much she loves France, how much she hates Tokyo, a really bad boyfriend that she had...in short, about Elkin. This could still be interesting if she made herself a rich, complex subject, but -- she doesn't. And good god, that Tokyo chapter. TOKYO IS UGLY COMPARED TO PARIS AND THEY EAT GROSS FOOD YOU GUYS. It's 35 pages of the worst white girl whining. How is this still considered acceptable (publishable) travel writing/cultural commentary/anything? Elkin claims you can't walk in Tokyo -- which, since I tragically have not been (making me especially fond of the passages where Elkin bemoaned her boyfriend's company paying for her to fly and live there), I can't actually dispute, but having read a ton of wonderful, wandering Murakami novels -- and even the white guy travelogues of, say, Will Ferguson -- I view with extreme skepticism. Also, "the men slurp their noodles." Elkin doesn't put the adjective Japanese in there, but it is more than just implied; it's a given. Ew. Two stars because the chapter on Agnès Varda was a small oasis of excellence -- the only section of the book that seemed truly in the spirit of flânerie: probably more a credit to Varda than to the author.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

    Historical retrospective of cities and the literary women who haunted their avenues with overlays of Elkin's experiences. This is more biographical than geographical. Elkin explores feminism through the lens of authors' lives and their writings. Specifically, women's use of city space or exclusion from it. It has strong associations to arguments of female confinement and the interiority of their lives, but Elkin emphasizes the subversion of it by artists and writers from historical periods. New Y Historical retrospective of cities and the literary women who haunted their avenues with overlays of Elkin's experiences. This is more biographical than geographical. Elkin explores feminism through the lens of authors' lives and their writings. Specifically, women's use of city space or exclusion from it. It has strong associations to arguments of female confinement and the interiority of their lives, but Elkin emphasizes the subversion of it by artists and writers from historical periods. New York Twenty pages and only two that actually discuss walking the city, the rest covers nearly everything else but flaneusing. Don't think I don't see the irony in complaining about the lack of focus in a book titled Flaneuse. But, I took it literally, as an armchair adventurer not as a disjointed treatise on everything from Post World War II architecture, to postmodernism, to feminism, to the epiphany that, "I've lived in a cage and never realized it!" experiential sharing. Paris Twenty five pages and maybe one that discusses walking the streets contemporaneously, from a firsthand account. The rest is a dissection of Jean Rhys' literature oeuvre with a provocative counterpoint of Hemingway and a dash of Ford. I haven't read Rhys and I can tell from the analysis provided I'll despise her books--women in penumbral spaces who continually make the worst choice possible-- dear god, yes, why wouldn't I love that? London Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. Again, more literary than actual discussion of London. That said, I was very familiar with the area discussed so I enjoyed moments of flashbacks. Plus, I like London. Paris Deuxieme This revisit features George Sand and her radical flight to Paris in the early nineteenth century, leaving behind her children to pursue her writing and political ideals only to return to the countryside in Berry after the unrelenting bloodshed of Paris power struggles. Sand refocusing on themes of matrimony and education as the liberator of women. Again, there are brief, one line ties in to contemporary Paris but that is it. Venice Diary entry about Elkin's PhD avoidance by writing a novel set in Venice instead of a thesis. Clearly, firsthand experience required. Sophie Calle turns out to be a source for character development and the reader gets to run down this rabbit hole. Turns out Sophie liked to follow interesting looking strangers around the city, see where they went--which to be honest, I've done while wandering various cities myself so I can't knock it. The idea is that someone that interesting looking must be going somewhere interesting. Where? Alas, not always true, but I found strange nooks and crannies with unique shops, festivals, and even dreary financial districts utilizing this method. Tokyo I feel like Elkin and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum; I would take Tokyo in a heartbeat over Paris--any day. This section is primarily a diatribe about how much Elkin hated Japan and everything about it with a backdrop of her destructing relationship. The part that really drove me nuts was that for a person who travelled the complaint that the real Japan couldn't be found dumbfounded me. Like everywhere else in densely populated cities, jump on the Metro, Tube, subway and go! Paris Troisième God, I don't like Paris, and certainly not enough to start the third chapter of its history and effusing over its "charm". I'm tapping out of this book, page 150. My library loan is about to end and I just don't have the desire to continue on. This is probably a fantastic read for people looking for an author biography and feminist discussions of restricted space. Just know that it tends towards tossing out philosophical concepts like confetti as it meanders. Either you find it pretentious or a clever tie-in. I clearly had incorrect expectations and while I found it interesting, Paris killed it for me. Overall, strangely intimate editorializing, but then since complete strangers often share oddly intimate details of their lives unprompted on street corners waiting for lights or deli counters and parking lots this wasn't as weird as it could have been.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    In her new book, abridged for radio by Penny Leicester, the author Lauren Elkin strolls great cities, thinking about distinguished women who did the same.. 1/5: She loves the word FLANEUR and then the female version - FLANEUSE. But historically who were these types, and is there a flaneuse today? She also recalls her youthful struggles to walk the New York suburbs. 2/5: She describes her own walks through London's Bloomsbury, which takes her back to when Virginia Woolf covered the same route, in h In her new book, abridged for radio by Penny Leicester, the author Lauren Elkin strolls great cities, thinking about distinguished women who did the same.. 1/5: She loves the word FLANEUR and then the female version - FLANEUSE. But historically who were these types, and is there a flaneuse today? She also recalls her youthful struggles to walk the New York suburbs. 2/5: She describes her own walks through London's Bloomsbury, which takes her back to when Virginia Woolf covered the same route, in her life and in her novels. 3/5: She describes Paris, which is THE great walking city. Beneath today's concrete lies cobblestones, which gets her thinking about an earlier age and the remarkable George Sand, who in the 1800's promenaded around in gentleman's clothes. 4/5: She spent time in Venice, researching a novel. And here she recalls the artist Sophie Calle, who came to the city to 'follow' a man called 'Henri B'. All in the name of creativity of course.. 5/5: There's an intriguing photograph of 'Jinx Allen', taken in Florence by Ruth Orkin, and it's mysteries are now revealed. Then some reveries after wandering the sidewalks of New York.. Reader Julianna Jennings Producer Duncan Minshull. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07mwqf9

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Raised in New York and now a Paris resident, Lauren Elkin has always felt at home in cities. Here she traces how women writers and artists have made the world’s great cities their own, blending memoir, social history and literary criticism. In a neat example of form flowing from content, the book meanders from city to city and figure to figure. My interest waned during later chapters on protesting (‘taking to the streets’) and the films of Agnès Varda. However, especially when she’s musing on Ma Raised in New York and now a Paris resident, Lauren Elkin has always felt at home in cities. Here she traces how women writers and artists have made the world’s great cities their own, blending memoir, social history and literary criticism. In a neat example of form flowing from content, the book meanders from city to city and figure to figure. My interest waned during later chapters on protesting (‘taking to the streets’) and the films of Agnès Varda. However, especially when she’s musing on Martha Gellhorn’s rootlessness, Elkin captures the angst of being a woman caught between places and purposes in a way that expatriates like myself will appreciate. It’s in making the history of the flâneuse personal that Elkin opens her book up to a wider swathe of readers than just the feminist social historians and literary critics who might seem like her natural audience. I would particularly recommend this to readers of Rebecca Solnit and Olivia Laing. See my full review at The Bookbag.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    BOTW http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07mwqf9 Description: 'Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [flanne-euhr], an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities. That is an imaginary definition.' If the word flâneur conjures up visions of Baudelaire, boulevards and bohemia – then what exactly is a flâneuse? In this gloriously provocative and celebratory book, Lauren Elkin defines her as ‘a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential BOTW http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07mwqf9 Description: 'Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [flanne-euhr], an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities. That is an imaginary definition.' If the word flâneur conjures up visions of Baudelaire, boulevards and bohemia – then what exactly is a flâneuse? In this gloriously provocative and celebratory book, Lauren Elkin defines her as ‘a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk’. Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between the city and creativity through a journey that begins in New York and moves us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo and London, exploring along the way the paths taken by the flâneuses who have lived and walked in those cities. From nineteenth-century novelist George Sand to artist Sophie Calle, from war correspondent Martha Gellhorn to film-maker Agnes Varda, Flâneuse considers what is at stake when a certain kind of light-footed woman encounters the city and changes her life, one step at a time. Youthful struggles to walk the New York suburbs.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This was a disappointment, more so because it started off so well. It’s about the love of the art of walking and gazing in a large city – from the perspective of women. The author presents much on the history of women walking in Paris and London (not much on New York). One woman, George Sand (she changed her name), during the mid-1800’s dressed as a man so as to be less conspicuous in the street. So the first five chapters were delicious! There were many wonderful observations and witticisms on t This was a disappointment, more so because it started off so well. It’s about the love of the art of walking and gazing in a large city – from the perspective of women. The author presents much on the history of women walking in Paris and London (not much on New York). One woman, George Sand (she changed her name), during the mid-1800’s dressed as a man so as to be less conspicuous in the street. So the first five chapters were delicious! There were many wonderful observations and witticisms on the joys of city-walking from a woman’s perspective. Most of it is on Paris, a city where I myself have walked. Paris is the city, I should add, which is marvelous for random walks – every street is an experience and an exploration; and it is so easy to get lost which is part of the fun. So bring a map or GPS locator. The author takes us with her in the current and in the past, for urban walks where so much diversity and energy can be experienced. After, beginning with the chapter on Venice, the book veers completely off-topic, and this is almost two-thirds of it. 1) The author discusses her love-life. 2) Several writers and film-makers are brought up which had little to do with walking and was, to put it simply, boring. The only chapter I did not speed read was on Martha Gellhorn – and again this had nothing to do with strolling city-streets.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I've been looking forward to this book for so long, with such joy at the prospect of finding myself and my experiences in the text, that I've struggled with trying to parse my objective disappointment from my subjective. My two main problems are 1) structural: I don't think Elkin goes deep enough into either history or memoir, and the insistence on the conflation of the two narrows and shallows her exploration of either; and 2) historical/political: Elkin completely elides the danger women face I've been looking forward to this book for so long, with such joy at the prospect of finding myself and my experiences in the text, that I've struggled with trying to parse my objective disappointment from my subjective. My two main problems are 1) structural: I don't think Elkin goes deep enough into either history or memoir, and the insistence on the conflation of the two narrows and shallows her exploration of either; and 2) historical/political: Elkin completely elides the danger women face in walking the street, and it is such an obvious danger that her elision must be deliberate (why? because it's unpleasant to confront? because she rarely experiences it? because it would complicate a shallow narrative?), and she also completely elides (literally does not acknowledge) disability, and how the ability to freely meander is a physical freedom as well as a gendered one. From the text, it's unclear if this second elision ever occurred to her. Honestly, I loved the first part of this book, the historical examination of flaneur vs. flaneuse and the twinning of memoir (the urban neophyte falling in love with city sidewalks) with history, but the book was over time revealed as more shallow and conservative than expected. There’s a glancing description of laws censuring women’s appearance in public, but the book fails in its stated feminist purpose because there is no intersectional framework of examination of violence, and in fact no examination of violence at all, as an impediment to walking. Second - admittedly perhaps a fault that I’d have felt less strongly about at a different time - there are a few disparaging comments about anarchist rabble-rousers at protests, dismissive and uncomprehending in the extreme. Particularly in a year when antifa have done such brave and necessary work, this is pretty galling - and again, points (to my eye) toward a lack of historical appreciation on Elkin’s part. She praises Martha Gellhorn for being an empathetic eye on broken war-torn streets, but cannot extend that same eye when in a familiar context; there's nothing but disdain for the students of '68, an ironic detachment that sits poorly alongside the celebration of life that is flanerie. This deep ambivalence to the fact of marching/collective action isn't relegated to familiarly iconic Paris, either; Elkin admits she didn’t feel the invasion of Iraq to be of personal import until she was kettled alongside protesters in New York when she was walking home minding her own small-minded business. What's perhaps most telling is her dismissal of 1968's chroniclers as starry-eyed about their use of streets (she namedrops Quattrocchi basically to accuse him of hagiography), but she hardly acknowledges their mirroring in her own paeans to George Sand. Sidenote (!), as Elkin is bound to writing about cities she’s walked in, this is a predominately super white book, and the chapter on Tokyo is allllll about othering. There have been utter gems in this book in the early chapters, passages I've underlined for their poetic expression of things I've felt, and historical examinations I've appreciated (on Woolf and Bloomsbury particularly), but I'm generally left dissatisfied and let down.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alisa

    Truth be told I didn't read all the way to the end, but I read enough to convince me there would be more of the same had I stuck with it. Disappointing. The premise holds so much promise and in those few moments when the author sticks to it the book is quite good. Unfortunately the majority of the book is a narcissistic excercise to impress us with her worldly travels and privileged youth while demonstrating her retention of everything she researched to get her PhD. Lacks cohesion to the premise Truth be told I didn't read all the way to the end, but I read enough to convince me there would be more of the same had I stuck with it. Disappointing. The premise holds so much promise and in those few moments when the author sticks to it the book is quite good. Unfortunately the majority of the book is a narcissistic excercise to impress us with her worldly travels and privileged youth while demonstrating her retention of everything she researched to get her PhD. Lacks cohesion to the premise and her life just isn't that interesting. One big fail.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    Who. In. The. Fuck. Does. This. Woman. Think. She. Is. I mean, I could give her a few hints. She's a whiny, self-obsessed, super privileged, childish bitch with a massive chip on her shoulder on a permanent ego trip. Tell us how you really feel, Alison! Oy. Okay, so. First, this book is not what it is sold as, although the phrase "part cultural meander, part memoir" in the synopsis should have been read as a flashing neon sign, I guess. This is supposed to be about the history and experiences of w Who. In. The. Fuck. Does. This. Woman. Think. She. Is. I mean, I could give her a few hints. She's a whiny, self-obsessed, super privileged, childish bitch with a massive chip on her shoulder on a permanent ego trip. Tell us how you really feel, Alison! Oy. Okay, so. First, this book is not what it is sold as, although the phrase "part cultural meander, part memoir" in the synopsis should have been read as a flashing neon sign, I guess. This is supposed to be about the history and experiences of women in major cities, specifically women who take on the typically male persona of the flâneur, a sort of man-about-town who has all the time in the world to amble about his city, observing and being observed. But with the added layers of nuance and complexity for women trying to do the same, both historically and in the present. And there is a little bit about that, and those little bits were basically the only good parts of the book, maybe like 20% at most. The rest is just this chick babbling about herself and her life and her boyfriends and her PhD and on and on. It lacks any real cohesion, skipping around from a historical figure to the author's café jaunts to Scarlett Johansson movies, and seems to be mainly a vehicle for Elkin to either navel-gaze and brag or whine and complain about everything. Speaking of whining and complaining...the Tokyo chapter. O. M. F. G. The Tokyo chapter. This bitch, I tell you. I am not Japanese, I've never been to Tokyo, but I was so disgusted and offended on behalf of Tokyo, Japan as a whole, the Japanese people. This was some of the most immature and snide garbage I've ever read. Elkin had been living in Paris with her boyfriend (who she calls 'X' throughout, copying what some other long-ago author did, and which feels so damn pretentious), when the bank he worked for transferred him to their Tokyo branch, and they had to move there within a few months. Okay, sure, that would be jarring and upsetting if you didn't want to leave the place you were in. I could forgive her for not being thrilled about it at first. But also, imagine the privilege involved in someone who has the financial and physical capability to live in New York, Paris, London, Venice, and now Tokyo, to flit back and forth among those places constantly, and to do nothing but complain in the most repulsive ways. Okay, you love Paris. I get it. I've never been there and I love it, too. But Elkin seemed to be personally offended by the fact that Tokyo is--SHOCKER--not Paris. And that Japanese people are not Parisians. And boy howdy, is she not shy about it. Rumour has it there's a mental ward in the Hôpital Sainte-Anne in Paris for Japanese tourists who are catatonically disappointed to find the actual Paris is dirty and loud and rude, when they were expecting it to be all croissants and macarons and smelling of Chanel No. 5 ... But there is no mental ward in Tokyo for Parisians lightheaded at the hideousness of Tokyo. For the first week, I was convinced we were living in the shit part of town. They put us up in Roppongi, the gaijin (foreigner) ghetto of flyovers and tunnels and steel bridges you had to climb to cross the four-lane highway of a main street. The buildings were almost uniformly covered in bathroom tiles which looked as if they haven't been cleaned since they were thrown up in haste after the Second World War. It hurt. It really hurt. -------------------- [Writing in her journal] Today was a pretty good day. X took me to Yodobashi Camera and then out for katsu-don (pork cutlets and rice topped with a fried egg) and beer. Like a little kid he's saddled with and has to please, except with alcohol ... Men on stools hunch over Formica tables and slurp up their noodles loudly and with great smacking of their lips. -------------------- Food was a problem. I haven't been a picky eater since the third grade, when my mother asked me to keep an open mind about a white substance that turned out to be mozzarella and on the whole keeping an open mind has generally rewarded me with something delicious. But in Japan I realized my mind can only open so far. The highest form of Japanese cuisine, kaiseki, I found inedible. Everything had a strange smell, like the ground-up contents of a rabbit cage was made into a broth, and then the rest of the meal was simmered in it. The tea tasted like the air in a room that has been closed up for a very long time. There was one root vegetable, some kind of radish, which tasted like the underarms of an old man's tweed jacket. There is so much more of that kind of disgusting shit, but I'm making myself angry again by typing it all out. And while her boyfriend is working there, she's flying off back to Paris all the time, but then complains that she doesn't want to be there now because he's not there. So not only is she selfish and childish and rude and an asshole, she's also a pathetic little girl who can't enjoy the city she claims to adore because WAAHHHHHHH MY BOYYYYYYFRIEND ISN'T HEEEEERRREE. And it just kept on being that bad. At one point, she's back in New York after...I don't fucking know how long because it's impossible to follow her circuitous timelines, maybe a few years? And she's like, when did all these bankers and children and people who look like they'd be on the show Girls get here?? Like, what? You're surprised by bankers....in Manhattan? And children in Brooklyn? And other narcissistic clueless white people like yourself all over the place? Girl. Please. The few small parts about women in history and their writings about being a flâneuse (though none of them used the term, I don't think) were the only bright spots in this book, and not even all of those were worth reading because the author couldn't form a coherent thesis if her life depended on it. I initially thought to give this 2 stars, but...no. For me, a 2-star rating means there are a few positives I can say about the book, but that overall there were more negatives. But I have like 0.5 positives about this one, and the negatives are not just things I didn't like but shit I found utterly offensive and crass. So fuck it. One star, do not recommend. (Also, the author is apparently an editor at something called "The White Review" which.............sounds about right!)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Here's my review for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty... Flaneur is one of those fancy-sounding French words that tend to freak Americans out, but its meaning is unintimidating and should be a lot more widespread. Although, as with any word, there are debates about its nuances, simply put, it means: one who wanders aimlessly through a city as an inveterate pedestrian. In fact, plenty of people drift on foot through urban landscapes taking great pleasure in the activity o Here's my review for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty... Flaneur is one of those fancy-sounding French words that tend to freak Americans out, but its meaning is unintimidating and should be a lot more widespread. Although, as with any word, there are debates about its nuances, simply put, it means: one who wanders aimlessly through a city as an inveterate pedestrian. In fact, plenty of people drift on foot through urban landscapes taking great pleasure in the activity of directionless strolling without even knowing that there's a term for what they're doing. As is typical of French nouns, flaneur is gendered — in this case masculine. It would follow that there should be a feminine counterpart, flaneuse. Sadly, as Lauren Elkin points out in her eclectic and absorbing memoir and cultural history "Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London," "most French dictionaries don't even include the word." Experts both male and female attribute this conspicuous omission to the oppressed state of women in cities until relatively recently. Elkin allows that the flaneur has generally been "a figure of masculine privilege and leisure, with time and money and no immediate responsibilities to claim his attention." So, too, does she concede that the invisibility — seeing while not necessarily being seen — that's considered a key part of flanerie is often unavailable to women due to societal surveillance and street harassment. So, too, does she cite Janet Wolff's landmark essay on the subject, "The Invisible Flaneuse," in which Wolff claims, "such a character was rendered impossible by the sexual divisions of the nineteenth century." Other self-avowed flaneurs and historians including Will Self, Luc Sante and Griselda Pollock echo such sentiments. Luckily for readers, walkers and city lovers everywhere, Elkin aims, in this book, to argue for a reassessment and a correction of this misguided notion. Throughout the pages of this erudite yet conversational book, Elkin sets about successfully persuading her audience that the joy of walking in the city belongs now — and has for ages belonged — to both men and women: "We can talk about social mores and restrictions but we cannot rule out the fact that women were there." If anything, she suggests, "Perhaps the answer is not to attempt to make a woman fit the masculine concept, but to redefine the concept itself. If we tunnel back, we find there always was a flaneuse passing Baudelaire in the street." As befits such an ambitious mission statement, tunneling back is exactly what Elkin proceeds to do. The book strikes a rewarding balance between present and past, as it establishes and illustrates the much-needed definition of the flaneuse as "a determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk." A native New Yorker, Elkin has been based in Paris since 2004. She deftly intersperses her own opinions and experiences of flanerie with portraits and explorations of such notable flaneuses as Jean Rhys, Virginia Woolf, Sophie Calle, Martha Gelhorn and more. Writing of George Sand (the male pen name of Amantine-Lucille-Aurore Dupin), Elkin points out that the author, upon moving to Paris, took to cross-dressing to assist her mobility and invisibility. In trousers and boots, Sand "could 'fly' from one end of the city to the other in spite of the weather, the hour and the setting, blending with the crowd like a true flaneur." Though the book derives its chapter titles primarily from geographic locations, as a whole it feels drifty and meandering, almost like a walk itself. Elkin's sections give the reader the sensation one often has with neighborhoods when one is strolling — the locations feel distinct, but the borders are vague. Suburbanites might not like this book, for Elkin rightly criticizes the suburbs as places built upon fragmentation and exclusion by "people breaking away from the collective in all its variety to dwell among similar people." But they — and all readers — would do well to keep an open mind to its praise of cities and its execution of its admirable goal of claiming the flaneuse's right "to organize (or disorganize) space on our own terms."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    I’ve seen it argued from various angles that the flâneur is a purely male figure, and not just because of how French works. Some writers seem implicitly to accept psychogeography as the sort of spoddy pursuit which, allegedly, only boys are sad enough to love; others focus on how much easier it is for men to walk the streets unobjectified and without threat. But, without entirely dismissing the latter argument, Elkin is having none of it. Here she tells her own story, beginning (like so many of I’ve seen it argued from various angles that the flâneur is a purely male figure, and not just because of how French works. Some writers seem implicitly to accept psychogeography as the sort of spoddy pursuit which, allegedly, only boys are sad enough to love; others focus on how much easier it is for men to walk the streets unobjectified and without threat. But, without entirely dismissing the latter argument, Elkin is having none of it. Here she tells her own story, beginning (like so many of us) as am ungrateful child of suburbia obliged to look in books for way-markers to a more exciting life in the big city. And in those books she found the first of the monstrous regiment whose stories she marshals here alongside her own, the women who even in more restricted times found ways to set out, reclaim space, and walk themselves into an understanding of their cities. Elkin’s brilliant at what seem like small observations, but are really quite major ones – such as the way the suburbanite’s fear of the chaotic, populous city is mirrored by the urbanite’s fear of empty suburban streets. Some of the figures on whom she lights are ones I know (it’s always seemed ludicrous to me that urban rambles might be considered an exclusively male pursuit when Woolf’s ‘Street Haunting’ is surely one of the psychogeographical hr-texts), others not at all (New Wave film-maker Agnès Varda, conceptual artist Sophie Calle), but all are worthy inclusions. It’s one of the big questions of the moment, of course – attending to tiny, marginalised strands of the culture which themselves can be prone to close ranks and render themselves too internally homogeneous in other respects. But while too often the whole business has been collapsing into vicious, depressing (sub)culture wars, this serves more as a politely debonair reminder that the story can be more interesting still when you tell it all. Like the flâneu(r/se) themselves, it's a reminder of a much more civilised way of doing things. Which is not to say it’s not angry in places; the section on Parisian marches might be considered to stretch the definition (ditto Martha Gellhorn’s explorations of war-torn Madrid, or the idea of the cabbie as wheeled flâneuse). But then on some level the flâneur has always been a protester, albeit usually quite an oblique one. There would have been undoubted interest in a book which was simply a rejoinder to the psychogeographical sausage party; there's even more in this, which knows that tension and plurality have far more interest than a simple rebalancing, just like a confusing metropolitan interchange will always be far more intriguing than a suburban strip-mall. (Review copy)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    This is one of the most disappointing and most misleading books I have read in a very long time. Actually, I don't think I have ever been so mislead by a book before. The full title is Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London but very little of the book is actually about the art of walking. Really, this book is a history of several women writer's lives of the past with a mishmash of topics thrown in between them, including but not limited to: immigration, femin This is one of the most disappointing and most misleading books I have read in a very long time. Actually, I don't think I have ever been so mislead by a book before. The full title is Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London but very little of the book is actually about the art of walking. Really, this book is a history of several women writer's lives of the past with a mishmash of topics thrown in between them, including but not limited to: immigration, feminism, writing, protests, marching, travel, and romantic relationships. There was even a section that had page after page of a detailed retelling of a movie. WHY??? There is a ton of quoting the featured women's books or book about them and most of it is regarding the rights and freedoms (or lack thereof) of women in the particular decade that they came from. What I wanted going into this book - a first-person view of "flâneusing" - we actually got very little of. There are a few paragraphs of the author's time spent in Paris or Venice that I quite enjoyed but 90% of the book was page after page of history and information about these women and none of it has anything to do with FLANEUR. Not only was it not about the flâneur, what it is comprised of is such a mishmash it's hard to make sense of anything. 2/5 Stars (I have given it 2 stars because I did enjoy what few words there were on the title topic) I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    ‘Flâneuse’ wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought it would more systematically consider the history of women walking in cities, while it turned out to be mostly personal memoir with regular digressions concerning specific female figures. This is purely personal taste, but the digressions were much more interesting to me than the memoir parts. Perhaps because the author’s romantic life depressed me; I didn’t like the theme of women following dysfunctional men around. Nonetheless, Elkin is an inv ‘Flâneuse’ wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought it would more systematically consider the history of women walking in cities, while it turned out to be mostly personal memoir with regular digressions concerning specific female figures. This is purely personal taste, but the digressions were much more interesting to me than the memoir parts. Perhaps because the author’s romantic life depressed me; I didn’t like the theme of women following dysfunctional men around. Nonetheless, Elkin is an involving and erudite writer. I liked the chapters about Paris best, especially the one concerned with George Sand’s role in the 1848 revolution. The Venice chapter, centred on Sophie Calle, was unsettling yet atmospheric and intriguing. By contrast, I didn’t get very much from the chapter on being unhappy in Tokyo. This book really reads like an essay collection, and I believe several chapters were originally published as stand alone essays. It isn’t a history of the flâneuse as such, which was what I wanted, so I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. I definitely agree with Elkin’s philosophy of wandering the streets to familiarise yourself with a city, although I prefer to do this in smaller cities that don’t overwhelm my ability to construct mental maps. London is entirely too big; Cambridge and Edinburgh are much more manageable.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    "Space is not neutral. Space is a feminist issue," Lauren Elkin writes towards the end of this incredibly rich and detailed book about women who walked out of their homes and claimed space in cities such as Paris, London, New York and more. With its mix of memoir and literary/artistic biography, Elkin's book shows how just being a woman alone on the street is a revolutionary act, tracing the stories of icons like Virginia Woolf, who battled Victorian social mores to walk freely alone in London, "Space is not neutral. Space is a feminist issue," Lauren Elkin writes towards the end of this incredibly rich and detailed book about women who walked out of their homes and claimed space in cities such as Paris, London, New York and more. With its mix of memoir and literary/artistic biography, Elkin's book shows how just being a woman alone on the street is a revolutionary act, tracing the stories of icons like Virginia Woolf, who battled Victorian social mores to walk freely alone in London, the French filmmaker Agnes Varda, in whose movies the streets of Paris often become an essential character, and the fearless Martha Gellhorn, who traversed the globe to report from war zones, long considered the wrong place for a woman. Each chapter is dedicated to a different city and Elkin skillfully blends the past with the present, weaving in the narrative of her own explorations on foot around the world. The small details she spots in Paris, Tokyo and Venice, and her nuanced analysis of her experiences, are all set against the context of the long history of women pushing back against exclusion. The result is a beautiful, and essential, mediation on women and urban life.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jay Green

    I wish there were more books like this: immensely informative, erudite without being obscure, elegant and articulate without burdening the reader with ornateness. I came away feeling enlightened and motivated to learn more. Dr. Lauren Elkin provides an episodic look at women walking the city/cities, including Paris, London, Tokyo, Venice and New York, combining biography, autobiography, history, psychology, and literature. There isn't a great deal of theory differentiating women's walking from m I wish there were more books like this: immensely informative, erudite without being obscure, elegant and articulate without burdening the reader with ornateness. I came away feeling enlightened and motivated to learn more. Dr. Lauren Elkin provides an episodic look at women walking the city/cities, including Paris, London, Tokyo, Venice and New York, combining biography, autobiography, history, psychology, and literature. There isn't a great deal of theory differentiating women's walking from men's walking, but that's okay, and there's no real attempt at psychogeography, which is even better given how tedious the subject can be, but there is plenty to ruminate on, and, somewhat embarrassingly, I learned a huge amount about the women Elkin focuses on as case studies (Jean Rhys, George Sand, Sophie Calle, Martha Gellhorn, Joan Didion), sadly highlighting my own prior ignorance. Much as I love Rebecca Solnit's politics, I find her works hard going sometimes: she spares no prisoners. Lauren Elkin is kinder to her reader, and her book and her readers are the better for it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Oriana

    Oh agh jeez I don't know... I liked this, I did, I do, I just got restless. She is very smart! And I don't know what I was expecting! But instead of some kind of broad survey of how women have walked through the world, this was that certain kind of smart-but-accessible academic-ish book that delves quite deeply into the oeuvres of several people the author has clearly studied deeply, and I hadn't heard of most of them, and I just... I just put it down one evening several months ago and never qui Oh agh jeez I don't know... I liked this, I did, I do, I just got restless. She is very smart! And I don't know what I was expecting! But instead of some kind of broad survey of how women have walked through the world, this was that certain kind of smart-but-accessible academic-ish book that delves quite deeply into the oeuvres of several people the author has clearly studied deeply, and I hadn't heard of most of them, and I just... I just put it down one evening several months ago and never quite picked it up again. Maybe someday...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cynda

    I live on a street that intentionally was set up to house and accommodate elderly and mobility-challenged people. But not every building is such housing. There are niches and neighborhoods on this stretch of street where types of buildings change and energy changes. These things are best discovered on foot. These concepts are some of the many that Elkin describes in her book. Energy Culture History Removals Rebuilds These other concepts also described in this book. By read this book, I came to deepen m I live on a street that intentionally was set up to house and accommodate elderly and mobility-challenged people. But not every building is such housing. There are niches and neighborhoods on this stretch of street where types of buildings change and energy changes. These things are best discovered on foot. These concepts are some of the many that Elkin describes in her book. Energy Culture History Removals Rebuilds These other concepts also described in this book. By read this book, I came to deepen my understanding of who Mrs Dalloway is in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf who also was a flaneuse. This is a feminist book in that English has incorporated the French word flâneur, and Elkin stretches the idea to include women: flâneuse. While my initial reaction is that Elkin is just as familiar with American English as I am, and I know we do not usually use gender markers on our nouns. But this is first a book about Paris, France and second about an expansion of the experience of women on the streets of cities, so new word: Flaneuse. Even I as a young healthy woman strong as a weak man knew I had physical and social limitations. It is a truth. If PinkieBrown should see this review: Thanks for suggesting this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Judd Taylor

    I didn't hate this book, and I didn't love it either. I think I mainly wanted more--more of the theme it promised, more women walking and more city. To be fair, the author did chronicle some women who did like to walk the city streets, but I wanted more of that, and less recaps of books (especially novels) and movies. I wanted to know more about why these women loved the cities they walked, more about the cities themselves. So, yes. It was OK, but I'm not sure it really delivered on its premise. I didn't hate this book, and I didn't love it either. I think I mainly wanted more--more of the theme it promised, more women walking and more city. To be fair, the author did chronicle some women who did like to walk the city streets, but I wanted more of that, and less recaps of books (especially novels) and movies. I wanted to know more about why these women loved the cities they walked, more about the cities themselves. So, yes. It was OK, but I'm not sure it really delivered on its premise. (To be fair to the author some of my ambivalence might come from the fact that, like her, I am also an American woman who moved to another country, and not only do I not feel the way she does about being a foreigner, I also don't see what that has to do with women walking in cities (well, it could, I guess, but I felt she made this a separate issue which didn't really fit the premise of the book)).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    It’s difficult to describe this thoroughly entertaining and illuminating book – part memoir, part cultural history, part biography, part psycho-geography – but its many parts add up to a very satisfactory whole. Lauren Elkin likes to walk around cities, to be a flaneuse and to discover the soul of places on foot. Although we don’t often hear about other women walkers, they have always been around, from Mrs Dalloway to George Sand to Martha Gellhorn, and Elkin’s wide-ranging exploration makes for It’s difficult to describe this thoroughly entertaining and illuminating book – part memoir, part cultural history, part biography, part psycho-geography – but its many parts add up to a very satisfactory whole. Lauren Elkin likes to walk around cities, to be a flaneuse and to discover the soul of places on foot. Although we don’t often hear about other women walkers, they have always been around, from Mrs Dalloway to George Sand to Martha Gellhorn, and Elkin’s wide-ranging exploration makes for a most enjoyable read. Some of the chapters flagged a little for me – I wasn't so interested in Agnes Varda, for example – but overall this is a book that I’m sure I will return to whenever I’m in any of the cities examined. Some evocative and atmospheric illustrations add to the reading pleasure.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alina Stepan

    Lovely, profound, culturally rooted, excellently written. Loved every word of it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Daisy May Johnson

    I wanted to like this more than I did, and indeed, the first few chapters dazzled me. I loved it. I was fever-reading; that tight, desperate urge to deny the world and simply have the read; that was me, and yet, it did not last. Flâneuse is a book of two halves and the first is transcendent, and the second is- lesser. I will not say poor nor bad, because I think they're almost empty words, sometimes, laden with a redundancy that doesn't, or will it ever, capture the nature of book. But the secon I wanted to like this more than I did, and indeed, the first few chapters dazzled me. I loved it. I was fever-reading; that tight, desperate urge to deny the world and simply have the read; that was me, and yet, it did not last. Flâneuse is a book of two halves and the first is transcendent, and the second is- lesser. I will not say poor nor bad, because I think they're almost empty words, sometimes, laden with a redundancy that doesn't, or will it ever, capture the nature of book. But the second half of this is lesser, and I suspect that were it half the book that it is - a commercially improbably suggestion I know, - then this would have burnt at the edge of the world. Flâneuse is a story of revolution; of women reclaiming the streets of the city in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London. The flâneur is a ferociously masculine construct and Flâneuse sees Elkin take it back. Recontextualise the term. Appropriate it, perhaps, to characterise and understand the relationships of the female walker to urban space, place. For many of these journeys, Elkin is accompanied by former-walkers, whether that's Sophie Calle in Venice or Virginia Woolf in Bloomsbury, and the text uses these perspectives to understand and to place the idea of a Flâneuse within contemporary society. The revolution of women, walking the streets, of understanding and reading the world they live in. This is what drew me to Flâneuse; a book I found on the library shelves whilst looking at it, and it's what makes the first half of this book so potent. When Elkin lets go, her prose is wonderful, transcendent. There are fragments of this book that are beautiful and the sort that make you go - well, what's left for you to do, because you've given me everything, right here? The answer is a book that gives and then has perhaps given too much. There's nothing left in that tank, and so the first brave, bold half of the book slides away into something a little - heavier. Less immediate. More clay, more earth, less air. There are still moments of that light - that wonderful, Barthesian, dialogue with space and place and the physical embrace of language (her chapters on Tokyo, in particular, are outstanding) but there's not enough. There's a sticker on my copy that says 'As read on BBC Radio 4' and I can see why it worked there; this is a book of moments. I'm not sure they are, however, moments that wholly suit being shaped into a book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Goldenberg

    I love the word ‘flaneur/flaneuse’. It’s one of those words that can’t be translated into English mainly because it has no cultural connection to the English speaking world. The closest to it is the more recent branding of the likes of Ian Sinclair and Will Self as ‘psychogeographers’ (though it doesn’t have the same sense of romance, does it?). I’ve always fancied myself as a flâneur and, since retiring, that’s what I’ve become for much of my time wandering the streets of London. While Laura Elk I love the word ‘flaneur/flaneuse’. It’s one of those words that can’t be translated into English mainly because it has no cultural connection to the English speaking world. The closest to it is the more recent branding of the likes of Ian Sinclair and Will Self as ‘psychogeographers’ (though it doesn’t have the same sense of romance, does it?). I’ve always fancied myself as a flâneur and, since retiring, that’s what I’ve become for much of my time wandering the streets of London. While Laura Elkins makes good points about the difficulty women have in being flaneuse - summed up by the obvious connotation attached to the word ‘streetwalker’, this book is much more of an autobiographical account of her travels to different cities with accounts of the lives of various women writers and journalists such as Virginia Wolf and Jean Rhys thrown in. As a result, I found it rather bitty with most of it only loosely connected with the title. A much better book covering ‘flaneurism’ and much more is Rebecca Solnit’s ‘Wanderlust ‘.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I am fascinated by flanerie; I had several lectures based around the very act whilst studying at King's College London, and loved every moment of them. I read a couple of good books about streetwalking at the time, and whilst Elkin does repeat a lot of the details from them, I still found Flaneuse engaging and enjoyable. I very much liked the way in which she wove in her own experiences of living and walking in different cities around the world. All in all, it was a splendid volume to read whils I am fascinated by flanerie; I had several lectures based around the very act whilst studying at King's College London, and loved every moment of them. I read a couple of good books about streetwalking at the time, and whilst Elkin does repeat a lot of the details from them, I still found Flaneuse engaging and enjoyable. I very much liked the way in which she wove in her own experiences of living and walking in different cities around the world. All in all, it was a splendid volume to read whilst nursing my aching feet after walking around in Amsterdam.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Auderoy

    FAV QUOTES: Perhaps the answer is not to attempt to make a woman fit a masculine concept, but to redefine the concept itself. Walking is mapping with your feet. The city is life itself. Being able to walk anywhere she liked was empowering enough, but to do it in the beauty of Paris was a gift. Twenty years old is like forty, that way. The person we’re losing always feels like the last person who’ll want us. We’re always staring off the edge of the cliff, even before the lined face and the grey hair. FAV QUOTES: Perhaps the answer is not to attempt to make a woman fit a masculine concept, but to redefine the concept itself. Walking is mapping with your feet. The city is life itself. Being able to walk anywhere she liked was empowering enough, but to do it in the beauty of Paris was a gift. Twenty years old is like forty, that way. The person we’re losing always feels like the last person who’ll want us. We’re always staring off the edge of the cliff, even before the lined face and the grey hair. It’s just that when we’re twenty, we can’t imagine how much more desperate things can get. I can’t narrow the distance between where I am and where I need to be because I’m not where the map thinks I am. But what if I’m not where I think I am? Things change and we have to change with them. We have to rebuild a world from the rustle of paper. Or we could put on our shoes and go out the door. Looking over their city, Parisians tend to write more about what’s disappeared than what’s still visible. Traces of the past city are, somehow, traces of the selves we might once have been. Slow down: it’s the only way to guarantee your immortality. And yet on some streets you could forget all that, places so beautiful it’s as if no conflict has ever touched them. Was this spot on the earth beautiful always? I’m a tourist but I like to think I’m the good kind. I’m here to observe the city, instead of buying bits and pieces of it. As a ‘good tourist’ I hope the city will open itself up to me, if only a little. I hope to find places to be in, to eat in and drink in, that will feel unique and worthwhile. I hope the food will taste good, and the drinks. When you’re young, when you have so many choices, how can you decide among them? Each one is a narrowing. You want someone to tell you where to go, what to do. Please take from me this responsibility for my own life, that I didn’t ask for and don’t know what to do with. Put me somewhere. But Venice is not a city you approach with an itinerary: you are certain to get lost, and to be late almost before you’ve set out. Some people don’t like being followed. Does it come with too much responsibility? Life was exhausted in me, I was walking in fear of falling down. We need the mass movements, we need people to get together and march, or even just stand in one place, not only for those in power to see what the people want, but for people who are decidedly not empowered to see you out there, and to shift, just a little bit, the pebbles of thought in their minds. The protest is not only to show the government that you disagree, but to show your fellow citizens–even the smallest ones–that official policies can and should be disagreed with. To provoke a change. To disrupt easy assumptions. You show yourself. You toss in your chips. You walk. But she stayed behind no lines; she cut across all perspectives. We were everybody, we were everything. We were an entire city of opinions. We argued with each other along the route, and in the cafes, and when we went home that night. The key is to keep arguing. Official gatherings were forbidden. There was no march. But we found each other, and held each other, in the square. One day this will all be a memory. And one day beyond that it will be a plaque. And one day they’ll all walk past it, with something else to protest, or prove, and maybe they will think of us. She started out as a photographer, and this is how she got into cinema: images spoke so loudly she had to give them words. These places that we take into ourselves and make part of us, so that we are made of all the places we’ve loved, or of all the places where we’ve changed. We pick up bits and pieces from each of them, and hold them all in ourselves. Fact and fiction were both indispensable ways of seeing. You can be killed at home as easily as anywhere else–you are not safer at home with your things around you than you are out in the unfamiliar world, though–to paraphrase her first husband–it is pretty to think so. She decided when and how she would ‘leave’. As if death were just another place to go. We were all high on the same feelings of possibility. We can go anywhere. We can do anything, we told each other. But then wasn’t every country in the world formed out of conflict over who owned the land? All of human history is a story of migrations and conquests. All of us are exiles, but some of us are more aware of it than others. Space is not neutral. Space is a feminist issue. The space we occupy –here, in the city, we city dwellers –is constantly remade and unmade, constructed and wondered at.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    When I was 19, I went to France by myself to stay with strangers and do research for a week. I had never been in Europe. I had never traveled on my own. I had never had to rely on my French. I had never stayed with strangers. When I got there, I expected my host to show me around. Instead, she passed me a map and her metro pass and encouraged me to wander. “It’s fun,” she promised. And it was. And it changed my life. A year and a half later, I returned to France, this time to Paris for six months When I was 19, I went to France by myself to stay with strangers and do research for a week. I had never been in Europe. I had never traveled on my own. I had never had to rely on my French. I had never stayed with strangers. When I got there, I expected my host to show me around. Instead, she passed me a map and her metro pass and encouraged me to wander. “It’s fun,” she promised. And it was. And it changed my life. A year and a half later, I returned to France, this time to Paris for six months to study abroad. It was there that my love for wandering continued- walking from my residence in the 14th to the Eiffel Tower and back one night, or taking the Metro to a random part of the city and getting lost. This only grew my love for travel- leading me to travel to Germany on my own, to wander streets in London and Dublin and Greece and Switzerland on my own. Whenever I plan a trip, I always plan in some “wandering time” where I can walk the city on my own, pop in some headphones, take in the details, imagine stories of each little house, and imagine myself part of the city as well. A few months ago, I listened to Lauren Elkin speak on “Tea and Tattle,” one of my favorite literary podcasts. When Elkin described “la flâneuse,” I knew she was describing me and my addiction to exploring cities on foot, happily and independently. After listening to her podcast, I immediately went to library and got the book. I felt such a thrill to read about these various literary women who also found happiness wandering around big cities on their own. I think the best part is Elkin’s personal reflections on her wanders. Her experience studying abroad in Paris sound almost exactly like mine- energized by newly discovered independence and many coffee shops. I discovered many of the same author’s she did, marveling in retracing their steps in my Paris wanderings. I also loved her inclusion of authors and cities I love and admire- like Virginia Woolf’s own “Street Hauntings” in my London. It was fun too to read about Elkin’s own experiences in Tokyo and Venice, places I’ve never visited, but was intrigued to see how she wrote about them. As many people have mentioned in reviews, Elkin’s lovely reflections can get lost in plot summary of various literary works. This did make the work cumbersome at times, especially when I would be so attached her personal narrative and wanting to read what comes next. However, I also liked the literary aspect of it because it pushed it from just being an account of Elkin’s travels, to being this literary sisterhood of women walkers. I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction, so it took me months to read this. I liked reading it one chapter at a time, at a coffee shop or on a long car ride, and seeing where that “flânerie” took me. On the day I checked out the book, I tried to walk around a local park and take some picture of fall colors, but I was approached by several strange men and eventually took refuge in a shop till they went away. This incident connects with the deepest meaning that Elkin has in her book: women experience and walk the city differently than men. And I agree. How do I keep walking and exploring when the experience itself can make me feel vulnerable and discouraged? While Elkin’s book doesn’t necessarily have the answers, it has enough powerful examples of women walkers to make me inspired to keep wandering regardless.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...