dinsdag 10 december 2013

Reading Scarp by Nick Papadimitriou


The six months or so before his book Scarp (2012) was published deep topographer Nick Papadimitriou was the talk of the psychogeographers ghost town (see, see). The radio show he did with John Rogers was a real highlight and together they discussed the upcoming book extensively. I intended to purchase it on the day it would come out but I never did. Only last month I scooped up a remaindered copy on Ebay. 

Why did it take so long? Fear of disappointment. 

I was afraid that after so much pre-excitement the book could only fail. That it seem to get awfully quiet around Papadimitriou after Scarp's publication only reinforced that feeling.

Now I have read it and I did so with great pleasure. It is much funnier than I thought it would be and his 'proximity flights', when he takes on the persona of other people or animals (the chapter that is eyeing scarp from the perspective of the eternal rook is extremely memorable) work very well. Much of what Papadimitriou makes a fascinating figure has to do with his resolute uniqueness. He is the arsonist that set fire to his school twice, he is also the psychogeographer who rejected the term and created for himself his own system of knowing and internalizing space. The proximity flight is a good example. That he still considers himself to live in long abandoned Middlesex is another. 

A different element of my prospected disappointment originates from this stubbornness. 

Papadimitriou comes across as someone who has used his walking and studies to sublimate an underlying insecurity and irrationality without 100% success. And this instability comes through in the book and it might have derailed it. But it didn't, instead it adds to the flavour that here is speaking a man who knows how to appreciate things that very few others people can. It is the claim of gurus and saints. The genre this book falls in may be well established but here is a writer who walks out of possession, not one who walks to write. But even then Papadimitriou combines opposites. In his introduction he states with equal weight that Scarp was his object of study long before he identified it as one zone. At the same time the book describes a number of walks made in 2011 with the exact purpose to write about it. Papadimitriou's emotional pendulum seems to swing between a desire for class war and jealously for the security of the middle class, between a need for loliness and a need for love and compassion. Struggles never to be resolved.

Papadimitriou himself connects his deep topology with his underlying psychology. A fair bit of prose is devoted to his account of his troubled youth, his crimes and the resulting brush with the law. Strangely his autobiography never gets beyond him checking into prison and it strongly suggests that the original manuscript was cut in two(or three) and that the rest will only be published when Scarp does well enough. 

I rate Scarp very highly, it is not really a book about a place or a person but a shamanic probe into the fundamental matter of desire.  

It has the effect on me that I want to go out and walk, it makes me want to buy a plane ticket to go visit Scarp myself. If only Papadimitriou would be my guide.

4 opmerkingen:

  1. For me, the holidays (Nov-Dec) always generate the same gnostalgia (the search beyond the familiar, expected, the commercial and the status quo). I read uair's post yesterday and your's today. I feel an angst of being swwwwwwwept along by the tidings and currrrent roles. I'm Always interested in the mystical analogies of urban shamans .

  2. I agree also. I was particularly taken with the wonderful description of a badger toward the end of the book. Startling originality!

  3. A deeply personal but never indulgent book that touches on things often ignored with real emotion, humor, and grace. Best thing I've read for a long time !