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How to be Idle
How to be Idle
by Tom Hodgkinson
Edition: Hardcover

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, 1 Oct. 2004
This review is from: How to be Idle (Hardcover)
This is an excellent book. There is a rash of books at the moment advocating better, slower lifestyles. Tom Hodgkinson, however, is no Johnny-come-lately, having been editor of The Idler for ten years. He points out how the five hours sleep a night, always busy lifestyle leads to a life that really achieves nothing. The so-called 'idler' is far more creative as well as being a real human being rather than some sort of automaton. Examples abound in his book. Einstein was an Idler. Margaret Thatcher, when Prime Minister, wasn't. R. L. Stevenson was. Billy Butlin wasn't, and so on. Hodgkinson's cultural references are wide ranging through such as Samuel Johnson (another man who was amazingly productive while still spending vast amounts of time either in bed or in the pub) and the Clash - though personally, I would have thought the real idler would prefer to seriously get into five hours of Wagner rather than put up with the three or four minutes frenetic bursts of popular music.
There are a couple of criticisms I would make. Hodgkinsdon seems very keen on smoking and anarchy. Being an ex-smoker I cam emphasize with everything Hodgkinson says. However, being such an addictive substance I can't help thinking that it puts you in thrall to some rather dodgy big business. And, surely anarchy is another name for exploitation of the workers by big business. It is always the CBI who complains about restrictive 'red-tape' or in other words being stopped from killing their workers or making them work 100 hour weeks.
Hodgkinson sensibly and correctly criticises the soul-destroying evangelical brand of Christianity that promotes a Protestant work ethic while pointing out that such as the Song of Songs in the Bible is all about an idle sort of eroticism. However, more could have been said (though really this isn't a criticism, just my own slant on the book) about mysticism. What can be more seriously idle than, say, Julian of Norwich in her cell meeting with God, or even the poet R.S. Thomas being given a small parish by the Church of Wales where his duties only took up his mornings so that he could devote the rest of his time to poetry. (How about that for an enlightened attitude.)

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