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pdf ISBN: 978-1-911193-60-9
version: bookmarked pdf
(pdf text retains the printed book's format and pagination but cannot be edited, printed or copied)
Imprint: Triarchy Press
Published: July 2019
Format: Paperback ~ Extent: 144pp. ~ Size: 20.3 x 24.1 cm
List Price: £15.00/$20
Print ISBN: 978-1-911193-59-3
Tags: drift, dérive, pilgrimage, mythogeography, walking, phil smith, john schott, tony whitehead
Guidebook for an Armchair Pilgrimage
John Schott ~ Phil Smith ~ Tony Whitehead
Guidebook for an Armchair Pilgrimage is a book for walkers, artists who use walking in their art, students who are discovering and studying a world of resistant and aesthetic walking, anyone troubled by official guides to anywhere, psychogeographers, site-specific performers and urban explorers.
“I love this book. Text and photos interrelate in intriguing ways, inviting me to slow down, be present, see and imagine. The photographs give everyday spaces and landscapes a detailed structural beauty, helping me see what I tend not to see. The words bring beauty and specificity of detail to my mind's eye. The feelings and emotions I experience in being present to this virtual reality are no less real than if I were actually standing in that reality.”
Carol Donelan, Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota
"This is a very singular book, a type of choose-your-own-adventure except with no choices (but plenty of meditative exercises). It follows a walk the authors made—through town and country, historic buildings and religious sites, and even at one point under the sea—and splits that journey across 19 days (ideally to be read one per day). Each day is a page or two of writing (usually visiting just one or two sites) plus some spectacular photographs to help ground you in the place. Within the texts are many prompts to stop and think, to consider the history and deeper meaning of the place, and to place yourself within the surrounding world. I've never read anything quite like it, and I'm not sure anything quite like it exists."
Dan Sumption on Goodreads
"The cover of this book alone might well draw in a reader attuned to numinous sites. The hill depicted will likely strike an echo with readers of Arthur Machen – surely it was somewhere like this to which Machen was drawn in The Hill of Dreams.
...from page to page the reader is presented with scenarios that may be a kind of path of initiation – confronted with an unfamiliar place or environment, how will you react? With imagination, or rejection, or indifference?
...the compilers ...offer ...a constellation of images by John Schott from which the two writers extract confrontations with meaning, often heightening the unheimlich, or unsettling, potential inherent within certain places and encounters....
This mind-pilgrimage is both rural and urban, sacred and neglected, involving the kind of places which if allowed can coax the consciousness into insight."
Reviewed in Northern Earth, Issue 159, 2019. Visit Northern Earth magazine
"Here the mundane becomes wonderful and unsuspected treasures are unearthed beneath your nose." Read the full review
"It is wonderful - a brilliant idea, beautifully done, with a sweetly companionable tone to the writing."
Jay Griffiths (writer/broadcaster/author of Pip Pip & Wild)
BELOW: Philip Carr-Gomm, leader of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, talks about the Guidebook:
Phil Smith (Crabman/Mythogeography) and Tony Whitehead (Birdman) join forces with master photographer John Schott to lead readers on a ‘virtual’ journey to explore difference and change on their way to an unknown destination. “What is most real is what you have still to discover.”
“Relax in your seat. Allow the train to take you along the water’s edge to the beginning point of your walking pilgrimage… When the train pulls into the platform, step off. Hidden behind the platform is a broken machine; a mechanised fortune teller – the ‘voice of truth’ – discarded from the nearby arcade of slot machines. Propped against the side of a building, its mouth is silent, its pronouncements have ceased; any truths you find today will be your own.”
Pilgrimages – real and imagined - are always popular, sometimes compulsory. Bodh Gaya, Santiago, Mecca, Jerusalem, Puri: a few of the sites that beckon. The pilgrimage to the authentic self takes a similar path in an interior landscape. In the 15th century, Felix Fabri combined the two, using his visits to Jerusalem to write a handbook for nuns wanting to make a pilgrimage in the imagination, whilst confined to their religious houses.
For Guidebook for an Armchair Pilgrimage, the authors followed Fabri’s example: first walking together over many weeks – not to reach a destination but simply to find one – then, in startling words and images, conjuring an armchair pilgrimage for the reader… along lanes and around hills, into caves and down to the coast. “We arrived again and again at what we assumed would be a final ‘shrine’, only to be drawn onwards and inwards towards another kind of finality… rather than reaching a destination, the pilgrimage was repeatedly reborn inside us, until its most recent rebirth in this book.”
Over the course of the 19-day Armchair Pilgrimage, they invite us to experience the world around us just as they did as they walked. So, over the first three days, they suggest that we contemplate, among other things:
And, as the pilgrimage concludes: “Returning is never going back to the same place.”