Feedback from readers via Facebook
“I was 3 chapters in to your book but my Mum has now taken it off me... She says ' it's "brilliant... lots of humour and easy to read"... you can quote her on that!"
“just to say that I am enjoying your anywhere, nowhere, somewhere. As I had been reading novels before I had begun reading it with page turning fingers but found that that was not the way at all. So now I wander around and occasionally I wonder what is that chap up to down there somewhere in Devon (I know that the chap is a she but I haven’t quite got there yet) and then I go to find out. Not that I am dipping in – still tracking the time-line, but somehow landing on it when the impulse comes as this keeps the journey going”
“I am immersed and relishing every moment."
“It's made me laugh out loud. I love it.”
A mythogeography of South Devon and how to walk it
(guaranteed to inspire anyone to write their own mythogeography of anywhere)
Phil Smith (writing as Cecile Oak)
Reviewed by Geoff Ward
"This new book -- Anywhere: A mythogeography of South Devon and how to walk it — is both a beguiling literary curiosity and a monumental achievement on the part of its author.
Phil Smith, under the pseudonym of Cecile Oak, has produced the first, detailed mythogeographical survey of a defined area, in this case, one within South Devon, UK, a deep, foundational probing of landscape, buildings, history and people.
...And so as to get at the ‘elusive layers and narratives’, he has approached the task through different authorial voices: pseudo-autobiography, fiction and ‘personal immersion and mythologisation’, producing a genre-busting text which is innovative, if quirky, scholarly, intuitive and profoundly associative psychologically: a diary of dizzying detail.
...Each twist and turn of the narrator’s peregrinations holds forth revelation as s/he attends assiduously to what everyday consciousness excludes, or filters out. Ultimately, the essence of character is as elusive to the grasp as that of place: it is subordinate to the mythogeographical exercise itself and so the walk itself becomes the effective protagonist.
...If a particular place is the mythogeographer’s ‘text’, then paraphrasing Roland Barthes (in The Death of the Author) seems apposite: a text/place is ‘a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash’. The text/place is ‘a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture …’ The text/place only ‘mixes writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them’.
... Phil’s abiding aim is to inspire people to write their own mythogeographies anywhere they happen to be — if they have the time, application and energy, one feels bound to add. For Anywhere is an epic work, running to more than 350 pages in small font. But more modest studies could be made, of course, which I’m sure would be rewarding — journeys of discovery, not only in one’s immediate environment but in one’s inner life, too: intense subjectivity coupled to personal transcendence.
Mythogeogaphy is also a way of looking and feeling: a lesson in how to be (and walk) in your own place, be it village, city, countryside or wilderness: as Phil points out, Anywhere is a guidebook for anywhere. "
Read the full review
Reviewed on Particulations: A Cultural Theory Blog
"This mythogeography of South Devon is explicated through the discussion between Cecile Oak (known as the stranger) and her companion A. J. Salmon (known as the guide). While we are all familiar with Oak's academic lineage and her doctoral thesis, Salmon may not be so familiar to readers. Seemingly, he is both a thief of poetry books and a provider of poetry education - one of these leading him to jail and the other providing him with a distraction while incarcerated in 2009. These characters are comparable to the Narrator and the European in Russian Ark (which also uses this dual narrative technique). In Russian Ark the narrator tells the story, but also has a guide (the European), who acts as a sounding board but also introduces the narrator to Russian works of art, and historical facts and characters, of interest in the film."
Read the full review