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 fl neuse 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.