Ten Walks/Two Talks
One doesn’t think of contemporary New York City as a contemplative place. From the outside, it’s all Times Square megaglitz and Brooklyn tight jeans and simmering arguments over where Muslims should be allowed to worship. But anyone who’s lived or visited there knows that it’s a city that encourages walking: It wants you to get to know it on your feet.
In this unusually quiet and beautiful book, that’s exactly what Fitch does. Across “60-minute, 60-line” walks through the boroughs, Fitch takes the reader through various walks across town, like a poet’s walking tour to a miniature Big Apple. There’s something mesmerizing about the way Fitch relates details: “A West African curling dumbbells spoke to his daughter in the prettiest French. A jogger in a coolie hat barely moved forwards.” Though inspired by the Japanese poet Basho’s walking diaries, this book isn’t like anything I’d encountered before. As I read through, I had a hard time deciding if it reminded me more of browsing through an art gallery or watching a foreign film without the subtitles.
Cotner and Fitch also conduct the two talks, once at a meeting in Central Park and another at a Whole Foods. The walks put you in enough of a trance that when you encounter a question like, “What do you think of this New York lavender sky?” you’re in the mood for it.
The dichotomy of the lonesome act of walking and the comradeship of conversation is never jarring, because the talks retain a similar philosophical tone. They tease out meaning that the walks circumnavigated. Ugly Duckling Presse has built a reputation on creating gorgeous books unlike any others. And I’m happy to see that tradition upheld.