Mister Roy in gyrovagueness, Friday, January 18, 2008, writes:
A pizza-box-like package arrived from lulu the other day, containing a copy of Walking the M62 by John Davies. It has taken me a few days to completely open, with two hunts for suitable tools - compared with cack-handed Amazon, the lulu people are masters of book packaging who in my view could be entrusted with safe transit of all sorts of fragile and precious items (Ming vases, newborn babies…)
On reflection I might have other reasons for delaying cutting through the plastic straps and polythene cauls to actually read the book. Stumbling across a blog reference to John’s journey (during the darkest moments of a bestial Christmastide) gave me the idea of undertaking and documenting a long walk home. The concept landed in me like a compressed file, which is unzipping joyously into actual miles walked, mud spattered, words assembled, pixels ordered into images. A very good thing.
So why not pile into the book?
Basically I think I fear traversing the same ground. Not that I’ll accidentally be lured to Hull instead of Brighton, but that my journey will become a sort of cover version, tribute-band act, or Work in the School Of…
I know John only obliquely, but enough to be aware that we share some cultural touchpoints (Ballard, the Fall) and enthusiasm for technological communication. I worry about seeing and expressing things similarly – a not unfounded fear, as I’ve already quoted a line of Eliot which, I notice, flicking through the book, is one of John’s chapter headings. So there’s a danger that my own journey (‘real’ and ‘personal’ though it might be) becomes a sort of plagiarism, or at least a partially redundant exercise.
And there’s stuff I wish I’d thought of, like the double-colon device in his headings (‘Trafford to Warrington :: 18 October 2007’), or using Twitter…
Still it’s too late now – I have opened the book and eaten the fruit of knowledge. Walking the M62 will become another component of the cultural wampum bag I carry with me. Any similarities should be read as fascinating synchronicity and/or clever intertextuality…
All territory has already been traversed, we’re all gathered at the same storytellers’ fire – and yet, paradoxically, each journey is as fresh as a new cloud formation and there’s always something new to say, albeit in motley borrowed language.
Follow Roy Bayfield on his four-year journey from Southport to Brighton, here.