Psychogeography is Merlin Coverley’s compact history of the now resurgent practice of using walking as a way to explore the relationship our environment has on our behaviour, whether conscious or unconscious. If you are new to the world of derives, flâneurs and ley lines this is a good place to start.

Coverley traces the intellectual lineage of the practice back to the visionary topographic novels of London by Daniel Defoe, Thomas de Quincey and Robert Louis Stevenson and the work of unintentional occultist Alfred Watkins. From there he examines the crystallisation of the concept through the Situationist International and Lettrist movements in post-war France, who invoked influences as diverse as Edgar Alan Poe (The Man of the Crowd) and Walter Benjamin (his Arcades Project).

From there Coverley charts the death and rebirth of the practice, giving a concise state of the field as of publication (2006) by exploring the ideas of JG Ballard, Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroid, Stewart Home and Patrick Keiller.

The book is by no means comprehensive in its coverage of the more regional attempts at the application of psychogeography—focusing as it does heavily on London and Paris—but that doesn’t detract from the work as tightly-written lucid exposition on what can often seem like an impenetrable topic.

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