Almost all authors of fiction or poetry are flaneurs; they do much of their writing in their heads, while wandering around. Charles Dickens explored the poor parts of London on his walks, and his discoveries frequently made their way into his fiction. Stephen King generally takes two walks a day through unpeopled roads in Maine. (Yes, still.) Jonathan Lethem has combined the impulse to walk with his desire to write: He has set up an elaborate system involving a keyboard with a very long USB cord reaching across his office and enormous fonts that are readable across the room so he can write while walking on a treadmill.

But for some reason, long walks rarely figure in the work of people who find long walks necessary to produce work. Poets Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch, who have tried to revive the dialogue as an art form at festivals around the world, have published Ten Walks/Two Talks as a way to celebrate the art of an aimless walk, with and without accompaniment. Together and apart, they stroll through Manhattan, not sure where they're going to end up ("Still spinning out Kristin's door, I decided to change plans. The air stirred gently, made me think of flags") but taking notes about everything they see.

This is a passage from a late spring walk:

The waterfall just past Huddlestone Arch deserves sustained attention. People about to collapse (emotionally) must often stand beneath. Sunbeams rippled against thick stalks. I wanted to compliment the broken glass. A bicyclist hit stairs, veered toward dirt, partially spinning onto Park Drive traffic. The lingering puddles in Lasker Rink would dry this afternoon.

The two transcriptions of conversations between Cotner and Fitch aren't about anything particularly deep, and they're without context:

A: I would wake with contacts stuck flat to my eyeballs, in a way they never get from a full night's sleep, then exit with my organs shivering to catch an M-60 bus to Astoria. That fall, I'd enter the bagel shop just as it opened—4:50 a.m.
J: Did the owner call you by name?
A: The man who opened this store didn't own it. He came from Central America and couldn't speak English, yet...
J: Were there any...
A: Though still he recognized me.
J: So he showed signs of recognition?
A: Oh absolutely, and joy. He'd unlock both doors and face the consequence. Cranky customers followed me in, but I was like the sun to that place.

If you're the kind to ask "What's the point?" this probably isn't the book for you. It's a book about useless beauty, pointless observations, idle reminiscence, and finding strange connections between dissimilar ideas. It's not a destination; it's a gentle journey with a pair of companionable friends. recommended

Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch will read on Sat April 24, Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free.