Waterstones, for all their shortcomings, should be congratulated for giving their staff a measure of freedom in putting together thematic displays. In the Sauchiehall St. branch today, I was pleasantly surprised to find a collection of books devoted to psychogeography and other reactions to the anomie of urban life.
Having a few minutes to kill, I read a chapter of Merlin Coverley’s book Psychogeography. Witless and boring, I got the feeling that any such bourgeois historical approach would be impelled to be dull in order to cope with the tedium of situationist pranks. Just as I was going put it back on the little display (with its Marc Auge and Iain Sinclair), a hearty old man with neat white hair came up to me, staring at the title. Raising his eyes to mine, he said:
“Psychogeography? You don’t want to bother with books for any of that stuff. Stick to drugs and alcohol, mate, not books.”
Taken aback, I smiled distantly. He repeated:
“Drugs and alcohol will get you there. Not books.”
In this he was echoing the life of Guy Debord, who drank himself to death after being the world’s most famous psychogeographer. Why bother with pseudo-intellectual posturing when you can derange the senses so easily? Why indeed.