virtualDavis

\ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs\ Blogger, storyteller, flâneur. G.G. Davis, Jr's alter ego…
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The Flâneur Lives Underground

The Flâneur Still Lives! (Credit: Culturethèque)

The Flâneur Still Lives! (Credit: Culturethèque)

I lead off this chilly morning with a hat tip to the good folks at Culturethèque for their flâneur-London-tube post, “The Flâneur Still Lives!“, which hit the interwebs last Sunday. More flâneurial paean than anything else, Mélissa’s short tribute leads off with this 0h-so-excellent mashup borrowed above.

Bravo! I shamelessly covet Mélissa’s graphic. (Until I discover otherwise, I’ll credit her for this homemade remix of popular iconography. And I’ll inevitably awaken at 4:00am with my own derivative collage. I’ll be unable to sleep until I jot a few notes, doodle a sketch, liberate the idea from my sleepless mind…)

The character emerged from the concrete of 19th Paris… a lazy yet intelligent person who strolls around… a particular personality who loves their city. That’s right, not a striking form of patriotism, just a genuine love of their city. Baudelaire… take it away: “To see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world – impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define.” (Culturethèque)

Baudelaire par lui même

Baudelaire par lui même (Credit: Wikipedia)

Despite the obligatory Baudelaire citation and a nod to Benjamin, there’s little enduring here except the jolly image. Or, perhaps I judge too hastily. Meandering a city via public transportation offers endless fodder for a flâneur. While I’m drawn less to the conductor’s announcements and more to the diverse parade of humanity swimming around and past me, I too savor public transportation. Somehow staring is more acceptable on a subway or a bus, especially if you allow your eyes to glaze, unfocused. This is a skill mastered early on in a commuter’s maturation. And it serves the flâneur well.

So, Mélissa, thank you for the troglodytic immersion and the flâneurial London tube image above. I hope you’ll excuse my carrying your idea forward. Soon…

A Flâneur’s Tour of Toronto

It’s a at least a pair of decades since I explored Toronto, and I’ll admit a bit of embarrassment on this front. It’s a day’s drive away, and a pleasant drive at that. I’ve added it to the short term bucket list, with ample time for flânerie. Until then, two delightful nubbins to pass along…

“A flâneur is anyone who wanders, and watches, the city. The 19th-century French poet Charles Baudelaire called the flâneur a “perfect idler” and a “passionate observer.” Baudelaire was a flâneur himself and, when he wasn’t writing poems and spending his trust fund on dandy outfits and opium, he drifted through the streets of Paris. Later, philosopher Walter Benjamin collected a chunk of thoughts on the idea of the flâneur in his epic volume of notes on Paris, The Arcades Project.” (Eye Weekly)

“The old notion of the flâneur will be different for whomever engages in this activity, even in a diverse metropolis such as Toronto. But that doesn’t mean that other flâneurs can’t carve out ways to navigate the city comfortably, recording their own insights and noticing the ways their own particular bodies and histories interact with the cityscape.” (Eye Weekly)

The Invention of Paris

The Invention of Paris

Eric Hazan's The Invention of Paris

Eric Hazan’s The Invention of Paris is a guide, quartier by quartier, to the “psychogeography” of the first great modern city. Hazan is a far-left radical editor now in his 70s, and has lived in Paris all his life. Not only does he know what a certain street smells like, but he can tell us about the geographical, social and political forces that put it there. A widening or a curve might conceal an entire history of oppression – or the moment Baudelaire admired a passing grisette.

Hazan reckons Baudelaire to be the first truly urban poet, a flâneur at the meeting-point between the nocturnal solitary and the individual lost in the crowd. The book proceeds in his urgent spirit, mingling personal knowledge and reminiscence with a Balzacian grasp of the whole. The ghost of Walter Benjamin, the leftwing thinker of a mystical bent who fled occupied Paris and committed suicide at the closed Spanish border, presides over this magnificent meditation on limits and boundaries.

Read the full review in The Guardian

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