Update: This newspaper is now for sale.
I have been somewhat obsessed with the eccentric figure of Walking Stewart for a number of years, since first encountering him in some dusty library, at the unpopular end of De Quincey’s “Collected Works”.
A strange, liminal figure, Stewart seems to stalk the margins of the Nineteenth Century, his own, multitudinous, works forgotten, but his footsteps echoing through the recollections of his contemporaries. I’ve wanted to do something with him for ages.
When Newspaper Club offered me another chance to make a newspaper – following the summer’s Book Club Boutique paper – I decided to attempt that something.
One of the odd qualities attributed to Stewart was his ubiquity: a perceived ability to be in more than one place at a time. Following a lifetime of walking across the known world, his final years in London were spent in seemingly unending peregrinations across the city, and more than one commentator recorded encountering him in impossible positions: sat steadfast upon Westminster Bridge, and minutes later, as steadfast upon a bench in St James’ Park. De Quincey himself records passing him at Somerset House, and then overtaking him again on Tottenham Court Road – despite having taken the shortest route through Covent Garden.
Drawing upon OpenStreetMap, styled with Cloudmade to resemble antique atlases, I collected these routes and anecdotes, and present them here in newspaper form. But the newspaper is a foldable, pliable thing, just as Stewart himself seemed to fold the cityscape around himself. And so we have maps that can fold upon themselves to delineate not only the narrator’s journey, but that of Stewart himself. Folded correctly, the maps reveal how Stewart breaks the margins of the map to travel, invisibly, through space and time.
There is also an introductory essay – a meditation on ubiquity, immanence and time travel, drawing on Stewart’s life, Jewish mysticism, Deleuzian metaphysics and special relativity – together with selected quotes and sources.
The first edition of the newspaper is produced in a limited run of five copies. Following investigation and use, there may be a second edition at some future point in time – or space…
Update: This newspaper is now for sale.
Full image set at Flickr →
We’ve been a bit swamped here at Bookkake towers lately, and although we have some fun, homegrown stuff to share with you shortly, we just wanted to flag up a couple of additions to our Cartography of Human Sexuality thread, which you may remember from our previous post on Sotadic Zones and other possibilities.
LoveHoney, one of the largest UK retailers of adult toys and films, have just released their own Sex Map (above), mapping purchases from their store to different towns and cities across the country. So, we know that Upminster, a suburb of London at the end of the Piccadilly line, is the “sexiest” place in Britain (opinions on what defines sexiness may differ). Well, we know sex is suburban, but according to LoveHoney, the good people of Upminster spend 9.5 times the national average on their sex lives overall, including 17 times the national average on Adult DVDs and 14 times the national average on “Sex Toys for Couples” (we won’t argue with that definition, although many of the bestselling products would appear to be designed more with the single suburbanite in mind).
Read the rest of this post →
Reading Brian Whitaker’s excellent and informative Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian life in the Middle East, I came across the concept of a Sotadic Zone, advanced by Richard Burton in his “Terminal Essay” to The Book of a Thousand Nights and One Nights (1885).
Taking it’s name from the ancient Greek poet Sotades, famed for his homoerotic verse, Burton’s Sotadic Zone (mapped above) covered the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Indo-China, the South Sea Islands and the New World, and defined a geographic zone in which pederasty was particularly prevalent and tolerated, and claimed that within this zone a homosexual orientation was much more common than outside it.
Burton wrote not only in the earliest days on Anthropology, but from what is now a discredited, Orientalist position (as critiqued by Edward Saïd). However, it’s worth noting that he wrote in a time of Victorian repression of sexuality, and his public disavowal of such acts disguised an attempt to show that such practices were in fact widespread, and should not be dismissed as “abnormal”. Mapping is one way of visualising an alternative view of aspects of the world – in this case, human sexuality – and so normalising it.
Such has been the function of maps for some time, although of course such efforts go both ways. The implementation of Megan’s Law in the United States has led to an explosion of cartographic activity. Take these extracts from California’s sex offender locator site, where each blue dot represents a registered sex offender:
These maps hold up a dark mirror to those presented by Grindr, the iPhone app facilitating geo-located hook-ups for gay men:
Such geographies are a physical translation of the mental maps all sexual beings carry with them: how far am I from sex? Where did I have it last? Where might I have it again? (One of the counterintuituve points raised in Unspeakable Love is the widespread eroticism present in modern Islamic cultures: when sexuality is denied private and inviolate spaces, it permeates the entire sphere – the street, the marketplace, the bus station, all become erotic zones, charged with possibilities).
In Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop obsessively charts his sexual conquests across a Blitz-scarred London on a street map plastered with stars. These locations appear to correspond with the later impact points of V2 rockets, which we can subsequently reproduce through our own records of London V2 Rocket Sites, a cartography of sex and death, of grandes and petites morts:
Visualisations allow us to obtain an allegedly dispassionate overview of human sexuality. In “Chains of affection: The structure of adolescent romantic and sexual networks” (Bearman PS, Moody J, Stovel K., American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 100, No. 1), researchers chart “the structure of romantic and sexual relations” at the presumably pseudonymous “Jefferson High School”.
“Allegedly”, because such surveys rely on the honesty of those interviewed, and a chart that contains only
one two same-sex relationships (that I can find) among hundreds of Western adolescents invites accusations of incompleteness, not to mention stereotyping in its use of pink and blue for gender identification [Image Source]:
But maps can be liberating as well. At humansexmap.com, visitors are invited to place pins in a map delineating their preferences, peccadilloes and fetishes – not without prejudice, as woe betide those explorers who traverse the Lesser and Greater Barrier Mountains to penetrate the forbidden zones beyond the Impassable Reaches:
Cartography is not, despite its pretensions, an exact science. Kevin Slavin, in a recent talk on the occasion of the launch of the BLDGBLOG book, critiqued the current cartographic obsession with locating the individual at the core of everything, saying: “a world and a life in which you are always the centre of the map… fuck that”.
Bookkake might paraphrase such a sentiment indelicately as: “a world and a life in which you are not at the centre of the map… fuck there”.
Know of any good maps, charts or visualisations which should be added to this collection? Do let us know in the comments, as we’d love to do a follow-up post.