In February 2019, I had the meta-experience of walking Darwin’s thinking path to think about how walking helps you think. It was school vacation in London, and I had to compete with families arriving in droves to see where Darwin had lived and worked. The desk in his study is still cluttered with books, letters, and small specimen boxes containing pinned insects. Hanging from a nearby chair is his black jacket, black bowler hat, and a wooden walking stick. The stick has a helical design like a crawling tendril and looks freshly polished. The bottom of the walking stick, however, is well worn—evidence of miles on the Sandwalk.
Yet the experiments were collectivist projects, nothing like the domestic lot of most American women, or the idealized futures that home ec touted. The students shared and traded off their infant-care duties equally, relieved by immersion in demanding science courses that fed their intellects. There were no men living in the homes to play the role of husband. As Danielle Dreilinger writes in her deeply researched and crisply written new book, “The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live” (Norton), “practice homes looked less like the married, heterosexual, nuclear household for which they ostensibly prepared students than the feminist communes of a later era.”
Geoff Dyer first became interested in photography not by looking at photographs but by reading about other people looking at them. That meant the holy trinity of seers: Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes and John Berger.
The first thing you need is a voice.
One someone can fall asleep to.
Can sleep through. Words