The Book of Idle Pleasures by Tom Hodgkinson
|The Book of Idle Pleasures by Tom Hodgkinson|
|Reviewer: Paul Harrop|
|Summary: A liberating reminder of the pleasure to be found in simple, free, natural acts - from morning sex to skimming stones.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: May 2008|
|Publisher: Ebury Press|
We've all heard the clichés about modern life. You know – technology was meant to free us from drudgery. Instead we've become its slaves and work longer hours than ever. We're overloaded with means of communication but few of us know our neighbours, etc, etc. On hearing these, most of us shrug and carry on with our busy, busy lives. But now and then, something reminds us of who and what we are. This delightful, unassuming book is one of those things.
A compendium of around 100 short prose pieces, The Book of Idle Pleasures, asserts that, to use an even older cliché, the best things in life are free. The pieces are written by a dozen or so contributors, including columnists and authors such as Michael Bywater and Nicholas Lezard. But the bulk of them are written by the book's editors Tom Hodgkinson and Dan Kieran, creators of The Idler magazine.
I came to this book shortly after reading Hodgkinson's recent How to Be Free. That book is an informal manifesto for a sort of pragmatic Luddism. It proposes a return to a more anarchic, self-sufficient, in short, medieval way of life. I found those ideas appealing but ultimately impractical.
The Book of Idle Pleasures is a gentler approach to the same subject. We can follow its edicts without chucking the job or defaulting on the mortgage. But it supports a similar proposition: that much of Western civilisation – its speed, complexity and alienation – is unsustainable and contrary to our true nature.
Instead, it invites us to focus on the slow, the simple and the natural. In doing so, it implies, we will re-connect with ourselves and the Earth. You could do it by napping, procrastinating or staring out the window. For the energetic, it suggests more productive pursuits like breastfeeding or gathering food from hedgerows. Or there are those activities which simply give you something to do while doing nothing, like smoking or fishing.
From the above, you'll gather that the book shows little regard for the pieties of government or the tyranny of the work ethic. Thus it manages to be an oddly un-British book while at the same time embodying many of this nation's virtues. The tone of the writing is elegaic, sometimes whimsical, but with a streak of defiance. Some of the pieces read like prose poems and are apt to send readers off into idle reveries about their own favourite ways of passing time. Even the layout of the pages shows a casual disregard for economy, with text reclining languidly among acres of white space, and faced by witty linocut-style black-and-white illustrations.
So if you fancy a day away from the email and the X-Box this summer, maybe lounging in a field, the garden or on the beach, I can think of few more liberating volumes to dip into as you drift off to sleep.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Book of Idle Pleasures by Tom Hodgkinson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Book of Idle Pleasures by Tom Hodgkinson at Amazon.com.
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Fred C Martin said:
without chucking the job and defaulting on the mortgage - But imagine being one of the poor devils in the UK today who has been slaving away for years and still ends up without a job and defaulting on the mortgage. Better choose simplicity voluntarily than have it thrust upon you.