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Boredom: A Lively History Paperback – 3 Feb 2012
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'Peter Toohey is a wonderful scholar, whose work on classical literature both instructs and delights.' - Darian Leader
'Forget ennui: Peter Toohey makes the case that the simpler, everyday kind of boredom we all experience is far more important than the pretentious world-weariness of French philosophers. Being bored can be excruciating, but it can also spur people to the heights of creativity. Toohey succeeds in making boredom interesting.' - Dylan Evans, author of Emotion: The Science of Sentiment
'Who would have thought that boredom could be so stimulating?' - Michael Foley, author of The Age of Absurdity
"As for his engaging new book, Toohey needn't worry: Boredom, with its wise insights, is never boring."--Carmela Ciuraru, Boston Globe--Carmela Ciuraru "Boston Globe "
"There are plenty of fine things here to keep a receptive mind alert."--Alain de Botton, The Times--Alain de Botton"The Times" (04/02/2011)
"Few writers on boredom can match Peter Toohey when it comes to finding pleasure, excitement and even a perverse kind of glee in his subject."--Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Daily Telegraph--Robert Douglas-Fairhurst"The Daily Telegraph" (03/26/2011)
"Mr. Toohey presents his case with verve."--Elizabeth Lowry, Wall Street Journal--Elizabeth Lowry "Wall Street Journal "
..".quirky and contentious."--Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday--Stuart Kelly"Scotland on Sunday" (03/27/2011)
"Toohey has lots of exciting things to say about boredom."--Craig Brown, The Mail on Sunday--Craig Brown"The Mail on Sunday" (04/03/2011)
"In Boredom: A Lively History Peter Toohey, a professor of classics, makes a strong case for boredom as a universal emotion, experienced by humans throughout history and throughout all cultures, with many practical and emotional benefits."--Ian Sansom, The Guardian--Ian Sansom"The Guardian" (04/23/2011)
About the Author
Peter Toohey is a professor in the Department of Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Calgary. His previous books include Melancholy, Love and Time: Boundaries of the Self in Ancient Literature. He lives in Calgary, Canada.
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However you'd be wrong, this book consistently held my attention, although I have to say it did feel a bit repetitive at times as it seemed to return to particular issues rather frequently. The book draws on a wide variety of sources throughout art, literature, ethology, behaviourism, psychology, philosophy and neurology. It reads rather similarly to works by Alain de Botton, addressing deep issues with a lightness of touch which draws the reader in without feeling like they're being patronised.
The book is certainly a meditation on boredom and it raises far more questions than it answers, such as whether boredom is a modern phenomena, or has been exacerbated in modern times, or whether it has always existed. It certainly isn't any kind of self help book for those who may suffer from the kind of chronic boredom that the book describes, with only the last 20 pages or so even discussing a cure for the condition. However, the argument put across is that boredom does not need a cure. It is more a manifestation of an underlying problem for a sufferer, and gaining some respite from the boredom will not address the real issue.
In that case boredom is a positive emotion that we can learn from, rather than a negative emotion which we must suffer.
Overall the book is a thought provoking investigation into a topic most of us would think of as, well, boring.
It's incredibly difficult to make a book about such an intangible topic hang together well, and Toohey has failed. There's a constant struggle in the book between the academic and the more populist additions. It takes more to make an academic book more popularly readable than removing the references/footnotes (tut tut) and adding miscellaneous anecdotes, art criticisms, quotes and book reviews. The definition of boredom is also constantly expanded, perhaps rightly so, but giving me the impression that without the expanded definition he couldn't have filled more than a couple of chapters.
I must admit that this book was a present and I wouldn't have chosen to buy it myself, so perhaps others will find some interest where I failed.For me, it was just dreary.