I’ve been fascinated with the idea of the Flaneur since I first came across Walter Benjamin in a Ulysses class in grad school. I felt an instant connection with the urban wanderer. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, too. Wander and create art.
I first decided work wasn’t for me while living in a tent in Costa Rica for six weeks at the age of twenty. While other people I knew attended college or worked their way into middle management, I surfed everyday, ate rice and beans and repaired surfboards for $50 a day. Life couldn’t have been better. Then I returned to reality (or unreality). Repairing surfboards couldn’t sustain me. My measily savings of $1,000 had dwindled to about $80. I thought being a writer the best option for a job that could sustain the kind of lifestyle I was after. I returned back to the States to enroll in college to learn how to write. Knowing it would be a long process, I decided to teach middle school in order to have summers free to write and live as a flaneur. Although at that time, I was still unaware of the term flaneur. I thought I was just lazy. 10 years later my plan had not materialized like I imagined. The first draft of my novel was complete, but now that I knew more about writing, I realized my writing was shit. My novel sat in the drawer untouched for about three years and I hadn’t written a thing since it was finished. My dream was broken. Then my wife told me she was pregnant. Knowing I was having a child, my dream began to emerge again. How could I raise a child and teach her to follow her dreams when I had given up on mine?
I decided to get a Masters degree in writing in an attempt to give my novel another chance. I read Benjamin and realized, I wasn’t lazy, I was outdated. The idea of the flaneur is not popular with our material driven society. Bijan Stephen summed it up nicely in his Paris Review essay on the subject, “In the ensuing decades, however, the idea of flânerie as a desirable lifetsyle has fallen out of favor, due to some arcane combination of increasing productivity—hello, fruits of the Industrial Revolution!—and the modern horror at the thought of doing absolutely nothing. (See: Michael Jordan’s “retirements.”) But as we grow inexorably busier—due in large part to the influence of technology—might flânerie be due for a revival?”
I reworked my novel and reworked it some more. And then again. And then one more time as the story took form. I was satisfied with it. I sent out query letters. I received rejection slips. After 76, a mix of no and no responses, I got a yes from Barbara Terry at Waldorf Publishing. My dream just a little bit closer. Flânerie, I’m closing in on you.
Here is where I borrowed the photo from: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/10/17/in-praise-of-the-flaneur/
One thought on “The Flaneur”
Join us for the O.F.F. – Oslo Flaneur Festival 2016 in June 23rd – 25th! Read more: https://www.facebook.com/OsloFlaneurFestival/