Feb 3, 2018
I interviewed Lauren Elkin about her new book Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London at her apartment in the Belleville neighbourhood of Paris. Stepping off a rather ordinary, noisy street through a large pair of solid French (!) doors, I encountered a lovely, quiet, tree-lined pathway/courtyard en route to "an airy, comfortable writer's home, filled with books, art, plants, and even a piano."
To start with, Elkin suggests that the flâneur is "the quintessentially masculine figure of privilege and leisure who strides the capitals of the world with abandon," and that the flâneuse is a “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.” Virginia Woolf called it “street haunting”; Holly Golightly epitomized it in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; and Patti Smith did it in her own inimitable style in 1970s New York."
Nonetheless, since the flâneur has not, historically been a very precisely drawn male character, we should be free, says Elkin, to define the flâneuse as we see fit, not as a female equivalent, but as an entity unto herself.
Listen as we grapple to portray this fascinating urban cultural persona/phenomenon.