For a detailed, extended and very informative review of the book and its main ideas, please see Reading and Walking No.24.
This description of Psychogeography and Mythogeography from Dorothy Max Prior in Total Theatre Review:
"Moving into more nebulous areas of performance/art: the ‘psychogeography’ movement, which has close ideological links to the French Situationist movement, sets out to reclaim the streets with artistic intention, using ‘drifting’ (walking with an open heart and mind), and conscious walking / meditative walks – mentally remapping and redesigning the environment. In the UK artists such as writer Iain Sinclair, photographer Mark Powers, artist Janet Cardiff, and theatre-makers Wrights & Sites (who describe themselves as 'a group of artist-researchers with a special relationship to site, city/landscape and walking'), have been at the heart of this movement.
Mythogeography, a term coined by Phil Smith of Wrights & Sites, takes the psychogeographic approach deeper, proposing a multi-layered investigation of the streets, shopping malls, rivers and fields around us, taking in archaeology, anthropology, history, geography, sociology, and of course mythology. Many of the exercises I used in the Bem Aqui, Bem Agora workshop – themed daily walks focusing on, say, touch or smell, or what’s above in the skies, or what’s below at street level; creating portraits of a street; using maps to inspire memories of places never visited – were inspired by or adapted from the works of Phil Smith and Wrights & Sites, and in particular by their marvellous Mis-Guides (to Exeter and Everywhere)."
Read the full article in Total Theatre Review
This review from The Northern School of Contemporary Dance
"At its simplest, this is a book about walking: the funny and touching account of the author’s walk across the heart of the English countryside in the footsteps of Edwardian oak tree planter Charles Hurst. What Phil Smith found was a countryside littered with beer cans and 100 years of change, punctured by cars and populated by an extraordinary cast, each with a story to tell about their connection to the places they call home. But Phil Smith is no ordinary walker. Consistently one of Europe’s most exciting and innovative performance artists, he has made ‘walking sideways’ into an art.
Later in the book, his ‘handbook of drifting’, ‘tool bag of actions’ and ‘the orrery’ offer a whirlwind of ideas on how to walk like a stalker, a swimmer, a ghost, an explorer, a pilgrim… As he says: Mythogeography is a way of walking, thinking and organising on many levels at the same time. Anyone can do it. You can do it… By setting ourselves in motion through a world of images we make ourselves human movie cameras or camera phones – both interpreters and producers. By the particular focuses and the angles of trajectory we choose, we make an interpretation of our world, and from our impressions we begin to re-make its meanings. The productions that follow from these experiences – a conversation in a bar, a procession, a conspiracy, a plan, a map, an organisation, a gesture – are what mythogeography is.
At another level, “Mythogeography” celebrates a loose weave of artists, teachers, activists and walkers whose practices have, in the last decade, taken up where psychogeography left off and started to bring together a range of disciplines and activisms including site-specific artists and performers, urbanists, derivistes, philosophers, drifters, geographers, anthropologists, film-makers and sociologists. On this plane, “Mythogeography” is a handbook for tripping up the ordinary.
All this in the guise of a mystery about walkers. Deceitful and hopeful, this is the first manifesto of a new kind of everyday: Walking 4.0. In short, walking isn’t what it used to be. It’s been deconstructed, theorised, analysed, performed, philosophised, disgraced and reinvented. This is a book about what walking has become."
Read the full review.
1. Journal of Cultural Geography
"Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways ... is at once a handbook, a manifesto, and a parody of handbooks and manifestos, a formal subversion in the tradition of Marshall McLuhan’s collaborations with Harley Parker, with their resistance of cover-to-cover trajectory...
...despite its ‘handbook’ guise, Mythogeography offers neither practical application nor theoretical rubric. For example, the book begins with a map legend. Rather than wed hieroglyphic stamps to functional signifiers, they indicate ‘pylons’, ‘tripods’, ‘benchmarks’, ‘wormholes’, ‘footnotes within footnotes’, et cetera. These symbols continue through the manuscript, along the outer margins of the page, but they defy consonance with the text. This lends the book a complexity that parodies and rejects navigation, adding a layer of abstruse anti-meaning...
... The puckish nature of Mythogeography, alternating its informal punk aesthetic with postmodern academic patois, demands that we suspend our disbelief and embrace its stream of consciousness. With its manifold purposes, as travel guide, fiction, memoir, and encyclopedia, Smith’s writing gives this impression of medleyed voices...
The author’s dedication to his thematically complex and inaccessible structure is impressive. His subject lends itself to improvised form, and the book, in its codified, non-linear construction, is distinguished from other works on related subjects.
... The book invites comparison to Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital (a circumnavigation of London’s M25 highway on foot) although Mythogeography does not have Sinclair’s site-specific concentration. It also seems a close relative of the artist Patrick Keiller’s series of films about England’s changing landscape (London, Robinson in Space, Robinson in Ruins), which similarly meld fiction and fact. That these works are all a product of European, specifically British, psychogeography is not coincidental...
Mythogeography, with its self-referential and folkloric sensibilities, also owes a debt to McLuhan and Jorge Luis Borges, for whom the architecture of the book was a primary theme. Philosophies of space and mapping are not alien to the history and theory of the book, and Smith demonstrates a unique understanding of this relationship between subject and form.
To weigh the success and failure of Smith’s book in the context of other writings on space and the city is an irrelevant undertaking, for like McLuhan’s work, it takes on the modernist impulse to perform its sources. As a work of postmodern critical thinking, it mocks and subverts traditional expectations of the book, specifically the academic book, with its argument and citation structure. It does not wholly succeed in this gesture, but in a field where silly concepts are written of with gaunt severity, Mythogeography might be singled out for its fierce dedication to chaos. In resisting the traditional mapping of a book, it becomes a maze."
Read the full review at Journal of Cultural Geography (requires payment by non-subscribers)
2. Amazon - a reviewer called Hagstone
I'm not sure how a review can do this wondrous compendium justice. It animates the world with meaning; not the fake cliched meaning of the heritage industry, but the realities, often uncomfortable, that create and conjoin the structures around us. It ranges from the radical geography of Doreen Massey, to the superb storytelling of Crab Man; it can refer to the urban paranoia of anonymous 1980s writers, and the oak tree wanderings of an acorn planting engineer in 1910. I haven't started at the beginning and read to the end, I've dipped in and come out with something new every time - something that further enhances my view of my surroundings, and develops my critical faculties. And yet - the book isn't a collection of bits, it is a cohesive whole, with a consistant philosophy and outlook. Perhaps, as suggested by the cover, it is a tool box as much as a book.
It should be central to any library - placed between the Bible and the Book of Sodom.
3. Walk - the magazine of the ramblers
The act of walking can be a political protest, personal expression, spiritual discovery and geographical deconstruction – all part of a tradition from the drift and dérive of the Situationists to today’s psychogeographers such as Iain Sinclair and Will Self.Exeter-based performance artist Phil Smith is a veteran sideways walker and in this book develops psychogeography into mythogeography. It’s a compendium of walking stories, hoaxes and digressions, lists, literary jokes, observations and dense passages of prose poetry-cum- theory.
Pretentious at times perhaps, but you’d have a hard heart not to enjoy some of Smith’s involving, passionate and often very funny storytelling.Des de Moor
Read the full review at Walk
Presented as a compilation of documents “from the diaries, manifestos, notes, prospectuses, records and everyday utopias of the Pedestrian Resistance,” the book is populated by a horde of similarly unreliable narrators, nested like Russian dolls: sceptical notes from a junior publisher’s assistant and glosses from the mysterious editors (the book seems at first glance to claim no named author or editor) pepper the text, and the collations include documents apparently penned by persons missing, unknown, unnamed, or even – as in the case of the legendary mountebank/immortal alchemist the Comte de St. Germain – both mythical and historical...
This bewildering cacophony of voices is mirrored by Mythogeography’s approach to the constituent parts of the publication. Footnotes, rather than remaining confined to their ghettoes, interrupt and swamp the main text, sometimes for pages at a time. The endnotes appear halfway through, and two thirds of the book is devoted to front and back matter (a joke about inflamed appendices suggests itself here). This text is dense with signposts, and it’s difficult (and probably pointless) to plot a straightforward course through it. Rather it invites diversion, digression, a kind of textual drift on the part of the reader.
And of course drifting is at the heart of it. Mythogeography is cultivar or hybrid of psychogeography, the Lettrist and Situationist Internationals’ term for their field of urbanist investigation and experimentation, and their practice of thedérive is the basic template for many of the activities described in this book. But rather than just an exercise in minting neologisms, mythogeography as its described here encompasses other discourses: Deleuzian geo-philosophy, the mobilities paradigm in the humanities, Doreen Massey’s theorisation of space as constituted by multiple trajectories, and the performative, embodied cartographies of Tim Ingold (zombie films also loom large)... A ‘panography’ of relevant texts at the rear points provides some pointers for further research, and the main body contains many passing references to artists and particular works identified as having an affinity with mythogeography. No care is taken to distinguish real artists and works from the activities of the fictional cell-collectives purportedly responsible for authoring the documents here, but that isn’t really a problem. If it sounds like it’s a satire on tiny and short-lived psychogeographical groups and their quasi-official-sounding naming strategies, then it probably is – probably.
Read the full review at Interface
5. Walking Home to 50
I had taken a book with me – Mythogeography: The Art of Walking Sideways – which I had known about for some time, but not delved into until now. It proved to be a compelling and fresh exploration of the ‘world of resistant and aesthetic walking’, part pseudo-literary account, part manual, part encyclopaedia. Plug:
The reach is wide and deep, occasionally idiosyncratic. The fragmentary and slippery format recognises the disparate, loosely interwoven and rapidly evolving uses of walking today: as art, as exploration, as urban resistance, as activism, as an ambulatory practice of geography, as meditation, as performance, as dissident mapping, as subversion of and rejoicing in the everyday. Mythogeography is a celebration of that interweaving, its contradictions and complementarities, and a handbook for those who want to be part of it.
“If I’d known it was this good, I’d've bought the fancy edition…RB”
Read the blog at Walking Home to 50
6. New Theatre Quarterly
With the proviso that the ideas contained in this book can only ever be fully 'realized and theorized on the hoof and in communion with others', this compilation of diary and notebook entries, manifestos and other assembled documents is an intriguing exploration into the practices of a loose coalition of exploratory walkers, pedestrian geographers, and drifting groups.
...Conceived as a series of approaches to walking, as a resistant cultural practice, mythogeography eschews scientific disciplinarity in favour of invisibility and hybridity - the point of this book being not to present a comprehensive overview or a theoretical framework of 'alternative' ambulation, but rather to offer a 'toolbag of ideas for those wanting to create their own mythogeographical practice'.
...Playfully merging fiction, documentary, and theory and interspersed with Tony Weaver's enigmatic illustrations and design, the text unfolds through extensive footnotes and endnotes, perpetual cross-referencing, and various inserts and asides.
Read the full review at New Theatre Quarterly
7. Layered narrative reflected by Anna Marie Savage
8. Ten Outstanding Books Named...
Time's Flow Stemmed blogs: "Inspired by Verso Books’ excellent Guide to Political Walking, below is my guide to books that effortlessly combine walking, with musing about culture, literature, politics and geography, a form of exercise that I endorse.
9. Frillip Moolog
The Lovely [edition] arrived yesterday. I’m loving it!
Sadly I can’t just sit reading all day so am having to keep popping back to it. It’s delicious. It’s like sucking a sweetie. You savour it and the taste stays in your mouth even when you’re not reading. ( I am usually a sweetie cruncher but Walking Sideways needs much more respect.) So exciting to enter this wonderfully anarchic world.
I am no writer so I am marveling at it …and I have only dipped my toe into the book so far.
When I read The Third Policeman by Flann O Brien ( years ago) it ignited my love of the footnote and I am also a huge fan of Forkbeard Fantasy. One of their publications The Suffocation by Holcombe Rogus ( Forkbeard Fantasy) is fantastic, fun and hints at Mythogeography.
But Walking Sideways is brainy stuff and requires concentration. Not that that helps. So maybe a bag of boiled sweeties to go with it. ( I am Scottish so Sweeties are necessary).
So back to work and Thanks again
Visit Kirsty's moolog beings at www.frillipmoolog.co.uk.
10. Invisible Paris
Following in the footsteps of the psychogeographers, then drifting in a completely different direction, the writer and performer Phil Smith explains in a new book the art of walking sideways, or how you can make a stroll into something far more subversive and entertaining. Here he tells me more about the book and the concept behind it.
Mythogeography: The art of walking sideways is a very curious document. Like an unknown city, at first it seems dense and impenetrable, but slowly patterns begin to emerge. Symbols like street signs help readers find their way, but visitors to this world are also encouraged to make their own routes. Unusually, the author is not named, and instead there is a series of more or less reliable narrators and guides. This is a “provocation” says Phil Smith, to encourage “others to adopt the book as a handbook rather than consume it as an autobiographical travel piece”.
Read the full review at Invisible Paris
Electric Sheep - A Deviant View of Cinema
[Phil Smith's] new book, Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways is a collection of diaries, letters, narratives, notes and other documents, written by artists and various practitioners of the art of walking that explores its modern uses, from meditative to subversive.
Read which Lucky Man the Crab Man would be if he were a film character at Electric Sheep (that is a meaningful sentence, even if it sounds a mite improbable)
The fragmentary and slippery format recognises the disparate, loosely interwoven and rapidly evolving uses of walking today: as performance, as exploration, as urban resistance, as activism, as an ambulatory practice of geography, as meditation, as post-tourism, as dissident mapping, as subversion of and rejoicing in the everyday. ‘Mythogeography’ celebrates that interweaving, its contradictions and complementarities, and is an attempt at a handbook for those who want to be part of it.
Read the full review at Ctrl-N/ Journal
...this morning I spoke to playwright and author Phil Smith about his new book ‘Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways’, which is quite possibly the strangest book I have ever read. Partly novel, and partly philosophical treatise, the book is a sort of field guide to exploring and interacting with urban and rural environments. It’s informative and witty, but mostly a celebration of finding, or making, weirdness in the most ordinary (and extraordinary) places. There’s also a manifesto, but as Phil cheerfully admits it’s palpably impossible to follow.
Read the full review at Eugene's blog
"It says a lot for our disconnection with the world around us that walking can be considered a creative, even subversive act. For the men of the post-impressionist era, the flaneurs for whom ready income and social status acted as an access-all-areas pass for the rapidly modernising metropolis, the idea of promenading without intent or purpose was, in some senses, radical behaviour. The modern city had never been explored in this way before.
Now there's Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways, a guide book that accompanies the rediscovery of slowly traversed space. From the blurb: 'In a city, for example, walkers become aware of their urban home as a site, a forum, a playground and a stage: all there to enjoy, understand and provoke on multiple levels'.
...Phil Smith's Mythogeography decribes the role of walking thus: 'as performance, as exploration, as urban resistance, as activism, as an ambulatory practice of geography, as meditation, as post-tourism, as dissident mapping, as subversion of and rejoicing in the everyday.' It's not strictly urban, of course - see Drift, for some rural wandering, or explore Smith's own starter kit for drifting, a way for 'opening up the world, clearing eyes and peeling away the layers of spectacle, deception and that strange “hiddeness in plain sight” that coats the everyday.'
Read the full review at things magazine.
Frank Mills's Empty Space
"There is a sense of ...
Read Frank Mills's review in full
“Those familiar with the exhausted history of the arcane will pretty quickly identify the structure of the book” (Preface, p.9). Those unfamiliar may like me think WTF! as they flick through it to try and get an idea of the contents.
There are introductory notes, footnotes, endnotes, appendices, a panography (bibliography extended beyond books to, well, anything of significance), a legend and even a contents page.
And yet… it is Heath Robinson, Stockhausen, late Kandinsky in book form...
If not for the occasional flash of recognition (Richard Long, John Cheever, Gaston Bachelard), I would think this was a huge, marvellous, nose-thumbing prank. As it is, I am left feeling straight-laced, like a tag-along to a well-marked route, and verging on overwhelmed by the already vast corpus… but conscious that there is always going to be room for more."
Read the full review at exploring.org.uk