Book Review

Winter in the Blood by James Welch

Maybe I've grown out of peripatetic flaneur type novels?

A fear struck me as I read through James Welch’s 1974 novel, Winter in the Blood: maybe I’ve grown out of peripatetic flaneur type novels…


For years, peripatetic flaneur type novels were the staple of my reading life.

Peripatetic flaneur type novels were the fibre, the gristle, the meat, the bone (I don’t understand this meataphor) of my literary diet.

I loved nothing more than a good peripatetic flaneur type novel, except for possibly a bad peripatetic flaneur type novel.

I loved reading about dickhead-but-still-not-irredeemable young[ish] men doing gently amoral things and thinking about the weight of existence, y’know?

I loved feeling like less of a fuck-up, but also less alone in being a fuck-up by reading books about other men who were failing[ish] at being an adult.

I loved peripatetic flaneur type novels because I they reminded me of my own life. I wrote an unpublishable peripatetic flaneur type novel, a long time ago (here’s an extract): this was the depth of my commitment to the peripatetic flaneur type novel cause.

I was an advocate, a connoisseur, a critic, a gourmand of the peripatetic flaneur type novel.

I was hungry for peripatetic flaneur type novels, greedy for them, and I ate them up.

I ate them up.

Except, alas, this one, which I only read now; older, balder, melancholicer. Or, certainly, less peripatetic.


The apartment I now live in has recently become the place I have lived in for the third longest amount of time.

This flat is the smallest of all but one spaces I’ve ever “lived”, but it’s certainly the first place I’ve lived in for longer than a year that I haven’t spent my time in dreaming of moving on. Right now, I don’t “need” to leave. That’s a strange fucking feeling.

I am no longer peripatetic.

In 2017 and 2018 (one year bad one year amazing) I was peripatetic. I stayed in well over 10 different places each year. I used to move. A lot.

I moved around a lot in the years previous to 2017, too, wandering alone around strange cities, hiding from my day-to-day life and the events and people I’d trapped myself amongst.


Sad flaneurs were my friends.

Sad flaneurs were the men I was able to compare myself with, in contrast to all the sad-but-in-denial-of-it men I saw in real life, who didn’t feel the need to go hiking alone in Spain for a month.

Now, though, I’m not peripatetic. I’m maybe not “normal” and “healthy”, but in reasonable physical health and I’m functioning within society (except for the lack of a social life).

I don’t wander around strange cities now, I just walk my dog along the same stretch of “beach” on the shore of Lake Ontario every day and I read a lot and I exercise and I try to encourage extra submissions to the Truther Press x Queen Mob’s poo anthology and I forget to call up the opticians to chase my new glasses and I forget to call and arrange a medical appointment (don’t worry, only psychological) and I forget what i read and and and-


Winter in the Blood is a flaneur type novel about a man of Native American descent living somewhere in the USA’s “mid west”. He isn’t living on a reservation and he doesn’t exclusively associate with other people from his tribe, and though details of the plot and his character are, of course, rooted in his identity as an indigenous person, the ways in which his ennui and despair and frustration manifest is the same as it manifests for all the white men who starred in earlier peripatetic flaneur type novels.

He drinks. He drives. He gets into fights. He fucks people who he doesn’t like and he doesn’t fuck people who he does like. There is blood and betrayal, driving and aggression. All very american, all very-


The first four sections of the novel repeat the following: an action that attempts to fill a gaping personal hole, that action fails to affect mood and the sense of shame and uselessness that results in elicits a new, doomed, attempt to escape the cycle of regret.



The final section of the book, though, shifts its focus onto a memory of childhood trauma, interspersed with vivid attempts at controlling a horse stuck in thick mud, cut through with the most beautiful piece of writing about bonding with an animal that I’ve read in a long time. It’s truly a wonderful piece of writing, the final section, and justifies the book’s reputation in a way that the rest of it didn’t. The rest of it felt somewhat stale. The ending, the final section, did not.


Maybe, though, it’s like a more sexist Cormac McCarthy. Or, perhaps, like a less homosocial Cormac McCarthy. Maybe if there were more women in Cormac McCarthy they’d be treated the same as the majority of women are treated in Winter in the Blood. I haven’t read any Cormac McCarthy for years. Maybe I should read some Cormac McCarthy. I don’t know.

I wasn’t excited, here, by the peripatetic flaneur type sections of the novel, and maybe that means I’ve grown up, maybe it means they were the weakest parts of Welch’s novel, maybe maybe maybe it’s not growing I’ve done, but shedding. Shedding what, I do not know.

weird ending to this lol is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

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