Idleness as a Point of Conscience: Nice Not-work (if you can get it)

by John Holbo on December 4, 2008

My friend Josh Glenn has a new book, The Idler’s Glossary [amazon]. An acquaintance of mine, Mark Kingwell, wrote the introductory essay. And Seth did the illustrations. (I love Seth.) The whole svelte, 3.7 x 6 in. unit would slip snugly into someone’s X-Mas stocking, mayhap.

It’s a glossary: entries on absentmindedness and acedia through to working-class hero. (Shouldn’t there be an entry for ‘zzzzzz’? With no gloss? I think that might have been an elegant way to end the book.)

Right, the philosophy of idleness. First, I will note that Kingwell and Glenn have diametrically opposed theories of boredom. Kingwell quotes a passage from a Kingsley Amis novel: “My wife accuse me of thinking her boring. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to her that this might be because she’s boring … To her mind, her being boring is a thing I do.” Kingwell takes the husband’s side, but Glenn goes on to take the wife’s: “Go ahead and blame your dull companions, but being bored [a slang term that appeared among London’s smart set in the late 18th century, perhaps derived from the French for ‘triviality’] is your own fault. It’s the state of being too restless to concentrate, while too apathetic to bust a move.” Which, come to think of it, is a pretty stable Kinglsey Amis formula.

So who’s right: Kingwell or Glenn? In philosophical terms, if a tree is boring in the forest, and there is no one there to be bored by how dull Nature is … ? In Humean terms, is boringness a matter of (we shouldn’t say ‘gilding and staining Nature with our sentiments’) dulling and drearing Nature with our sentiments. Or was existence already dull and drear when we lay down on it?

Let us proceed to our second topic, which is of even greater significance: idleness, per se. Kingwell wants to distinguish Idleness, as a positive spiritual condition, from mere laziness and slackerdom. The latter, he correctly notes, are cases of second-order desire failure. You want to want to do something, but nothing happens. Idleness, by contrast, makes a virtue of not-doing. As he says, there is a world of difference between not working and not-working. But it seems to me we need to take another step at this point. To explain: Kingwell quotes Russell, from In Praise of Idleness, about the two kinds of work: moving stuff around on or near the surface of the earth; or ordering/advising other people to do it. But then he faults Russell for ultimately being trapped on the gerbil wheel (if you will) of work ethic talk. ‘Idleness’ just becomes another word for not working. It does not escape into some proper value sphere of its own, not-working. And so Russell ends up confusing idleness with laziness. And yet: is not Kingwell himself making the same mistake. (!!) The trouble with ‘idleness’ is that it, too, still sees from the point of view of work. Idlers – from Socrates asking annoying questions, to Nerval, walking his lobster, to that fellow sleeping on the bench – are all the same from the point of view of work. These people are not working. What is missed is the distinction between doing nothing and doing something that is, from the point of view of work, conspicuously profitless – like philosophy, or walking a lobster. ‘Idleness’, applied to Socrates or Nerval, is a careless, inaccurate term of abuse, a tactical refusal to acknowledge what distinguishes the doer of nothing from the doer of something seemingly pointless. It seems to me that, when we shave off mere laziness, on one side, and various forms of active strangeness, on the other, you reduce the category of true Idleness, positive not-working, to a relatively small, hard core of soft indolence. You have to limit your cases to philosophers of Idleness. I think there should be an entry for ‘Taoism’, some quotes from Chuang Tzu. (On the other hand, there is an entry for ‘Cunctation’, which is a word I like.)

Now, contemporary public policy implications. The LA Times reports:

Reporting from Washington – The outgoing Bush administration is planning to announce a broad new “right of conscience” rule permitting medical facilities, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers to refuse to participate in any procedure they find morally objectionable, including abortion and possibly even artificial insemination and birth control.

For more than 30 years, federal law has dictated that doctors and nurses may refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further by making clear that healthcare workers also may refuse to provide information or advice to patients who might want an abortion.

It also seeks to cover more employees. For example, in addition to a surgeon and a nurse in an operating room, the rule would extend to “an employee whose task it is to clean the instruments,” the draft rule said.

An older NY Times article adds another significant element to the picture:

The Ohio Health Department said the rule “could force family planning providers to hire employees who may refuse to do their jobs” — a concern echoed by Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Under the Civil Rights Act, an employer must make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious practices, unless the employer can show that doing so would cause “unduehardship on the conduct of its business.”

In a letter commenting on the proposed rule, Mr. Ishimaru and Ms. Griffin, from the employment commission, said that 40 years of court decisions had carefully balanced “employees’ rights to religious freedom and employers’ business needs.”

The proposed rule, they said, “would throw this entire body of law into question.”

I think we see here a chance, in the waning days of the Bush administration, for a massive embiggening of the Republican Big Tent. A coalition of the Unwilling, if you will. Nihilcons – or Taocons, or Dronecons if you prefer. Republicans can pivot from being the party of Emersonian self-reliance to the Bartlebyan party of ‘I would prefer not to’. (Think how much clearer things would be if that had been FEMA’s official, rather than unofficial, motto. ‘Heckuva not-job, Brownie’ and all that.)

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. You may reasonably say: this is all well and good, and obviously I should buy The Idler’s Glossary for anyone in my family who is planning on going to medical school, or working at or near a hospital or pharmacy. But what about the rest of us? What about Main Street, to say nothing of Wall Street? Can the denizens of these alternative avenues cultivate Idleness as an obscure point of positive philosophical conscience, to the point where – by the terms of this new HHS rule – one could simply refuse to work, without being fired?

At this point I suggest coming up with some hoo-ha about how the whole economy is all intertwined – making sandwiches for doctors, teaching the children of doctors, to say nothing of the Interstate Commerce Clause, etc. etc. If a butterfly idly refuses to flap its wings, and this causes a storm half a world away, or causes the aftermath of a storm to not be cleaned up, then … stuff from Chuang Tzu:

‘Caves and dells of hill and forest, hollows in huge trees of many a span in girth; ‹ these are like nostrils, like mouths, like ears, like beam-sockets, like goblets, like mortars, like ditches, like bogs. And the wind goes rushing through them, sniffing, snoring, singing, soughing, puffing, purling, whistling, whirring, now shrilly treble, now deeply bass, now soft, now loud; until, with a lull, silence reigns supreme. Have you never witnessed among the trees such a disturbance as this?’

‘Well, then’, enquired Tzu Yu, ‘since the music of earth consists of nothing more than holes, and the music of man of pipes and flutes, ‹ of what consists the music of Heaven?’

‘The effect of the wind upon these various apertures’, replied Tzu Ch’i, ‘is not uniform. But what is it that gives to each the individuality, to all the potentiality, of sound?

‘Great knowledge embraces the whole: small knowledge, a part only. Great speech is universal: small speech is particular.

‘For whether the mind is locked in sleep or whether in waking hours the body is released, we are subject to daily mental perturbations, ‹ indecision, want of penetration, concealment, fretting fear, and trembling terror. Now like a javelin the mind flies forth, the arbiter of right and wrong. Now like a solemn covenanter it remains firm, the guardian of rights secured. Then, as under autumn and winter’s blight, comes gradual decay, a passing away, like the flow of water, never to return. Finally, the block when all is choked up like an old drain ‹ the failing mind which shall not see light again.

‘Joy and anger, sorrow and happiness, caution and remorse, come upon us by turns, with everchanging mood. They come like music from hollowness, like mushrooms from damp. Daily and nightly they alternate within us, but we cannot tell whence they spring. Can we then hope in a moment to our lay our finger upon their very Cause?

And if not, can we be unjustified in our Idleness? CAN WE!?

Then make sure to nod off again, abruptly, while your earnestly work-favoring interlocutor clutches vainly for any objection.

And so it turns out Kingwell speaks nothing but the sober truth when he write, in his introduction: “Henceforth all further glossaries are superfluous because everything you need to know about how to conduct a life lies within these covers.” Just show your employer the book and claim a ‘right of conscience’ to pure Idleness.



Kieran 12.04.08 at 7:48 am

Does Lafargue’s The Right to be Lazy get a mention? As I recall, this line of argument really irritated his father-in-law.


Dave 12.04.08 at 8:50 am

You can be as idle as you like, but I’m not cooking your dinner!

[That, I think, would about cover the appropriate response to the idle, from left or right.]


Barry Freed 12.04.08 at 10:00 am

I’ve seen some interesting Anarchist (e.g. Bob Black’s The Revolt Against Work) & Situationist (e.g. Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life), um, work along these lines. I anticipate zizka/John Emerson will have some interesting insights to add.


Ginger Yellow 12.04.08 at 10:05 am

I don’t have any particularly interesting thoughts on idleness as such, but I can’t agree with this:

being bored [a slang term that appeared among London’s smart set in the late 18th century, perhaps derived from the French for ‘triviality’] is your own fault. It’s the state of being too restless to concentrate, while too apathetic to bust a move.”

It certainly doesn’t apply to me, most of the time. For instance, I get bored so easily that I generally have to listen to something and read something while walking down the street, even if it’s only for a minute or two. What has that to do with apathy?


Dave 12.04.08 at 11:16 am

Have you tried Ritalin?


Josh Glenn 12.04.08 at 1:19 pm

Thanks for the shoutout, John — and for engaging with the text so closely. Awesome.

Regarding BORING, I now see, thanks to your criticism, that Mark and I may have used the same signifier to refer to different signifieds. Getting our signifieds and signifiers straight is the point of a Glossary, so — whoops!

I’ve tried to distinguish — in my own thinking, and in the Glossary — between BORING (a passing mood, a paralyzing compound of restlessness and apathy) and, for example, ENNUI (morbid awareness of clock time, rendering one uninterested in one’s surroundings or activities; its opposite, according to Baudelaire, is EXTASE — the experience of timelessness sometimes afforded by drugs or sailing in the tropics); and SPLEEN (gnostic sense that one is trapped in an invisible cage or prison; its opposite, for Baudelaire, is VOLUPTÉ — “chaste voluptuousness” would be my clumsy translation — an orgasm of the senses afforded by an escape from that cage or prison, again whether through drugs or adventure, “n’importe où! pourvu que ce soit hors de ce monde!”); and ACEDIA (boredom heightened to a state of nihilistic despair, much more difficult to shake).

Kingsley Amis refers, in the passage that Mark quotes, to the trick that tedious people (not just spouses) sometimes attempt to play on other people — insisting that they’re not being monotonous and repetitive, that it’s you who have a problem. They name that problem “being bored.” Amis replies: No, the problem is that you’re tedious; and you’ve caused me to experience tedium. Except he doesn’t use those words; he should have. If you ask me. Though Amis is a better writer than I am… back to this later.

TEDIUM I neglected to gloss in the Glossary — it’s Latin for “wearied,” esp. by monotony, lack of diversion — and I suppose I’d call tedium a gateway to boredom. Because the experience of tedium (whether the monotonous droning or nagging or small talk of a tedious companion; or a repetitive job, for example) can sometimes trigger the mood I’ve called boredom. Boredom is a gateway, too: the experience of boredom can trigger the more enduring, horrible-yet-enlightening states I’ve called ennui or spleen.

Tedium is a bad state to experience — yet at least it’s an adult state, which is why that consummate adult, Kingsley Amis (my paperback edition of his “New Visions of Hill” boasts that it’s “the book that made Science Fiction grow up”), is an expert on the subject. Boredom is a worse state to experience, because it’s a childish or adolescent state. You feel restless, full of energy, eager to do something or accomplish something… yet you’re oppressed by the sensation that there’s no point in trying to do or accomplish anything. Kids feel that way legitimately because adults rarely allow them to do the things they’re eager to do; also, kids don’t have the resources or money or musclepower or whatever it is needed to do the things they often want to do. Feeling this way when you’re a kid is bad enough… feeling this way as an adult is particularly horrible. It’s related to Stockholm Syndrome — you were told No so often by adults that now, as an adult yourself, you can’t say Yes.

It’s important to distinguish carefully between boredom, tedium, ennui, spleen, acedia (as well as states un-discussed here, and perhaps as yet undefined). Mark and I left plenty of work undone in the Glossary, it’s true. According to Tsesse, though, leaving work half-finished is one of life’s great pleasures — compare Benjamin’s joyful brooding over fragments — so I’m not apologizing. Look how much fun this flaw in the Glossary afforded John; and look how much fun I’m having responding to John. This is what the life of the mind is about, for me.

Still, against John’s claim that we’re operating at cross-purposes in the Glossary, I’d like to point out that Mark and I may instead merely be using different signifiers for the same signified. “Tedium” could be glossed as a paralyzing compound of restlessness and apathy; and “boredom” could be glossed as wearied, esp. by monotony, lack of diversion. Defined so, boredom could be a gateway to tedium, and not the other way around. In other words, just because Mark and Kingsley used BORING to refer to a state that I’d call TEDIUM doesn’t mean they’re mistaken. (Nor are all those idlers I quote mistaken when they describe WORK as repetitive and endless, despite the fact that — following Arendt — I would only describe LABOR that way.) If we ever do a second edition of the Glossary, we’ll have to clear up this boredom/tedium thing.

More importantly, I’d emphasize that Mark and I firmly agree that boredom, tedium, et al., are points of departure. Instead of seeking to alleviate these states through drugs or adventure, per Baudelaire (who knew very well, by the way, that both were “artificial paradises”), we suggest that readers embrace and spelunk their boredom, their tedium, their ennui, their spleen, their acedia. It’s better, really, to be a bored mouse on a wheel than a content mouse on a wheel. We’ve caught a glimpse of the invisible prison, fellow meeces! Now what?

Phew! All that, and I haven’t even addressed most of John’s post, or the comments here. Well, another time. But: Ginger Yellow, it doesn’t sound like you’re bored, to me. You’re restless. Another term that I neglected to gloss in the Glossary. Damn.


Josh Glenn 12.04.08 at 1:37 pm

PS: Lafargue does get mentioned in the Glossary. In the gloss for LAZY. A couple of anarchists and situationists also rate a mention; but I’m saving most of that material, including ideas from Black and Vaneigem, for a sequel whose emphasis will be less pro-idleness and more anti-work (labor).


Mark Kingwell 12.04.08 at 1:51 pm

Naturally I think I *’don’t* fall into Russell’s mistake, especially when I go on to discuss Aristotle’s version of the same mistake and then Lao Tzu’s different way — which I think is finally the way of the true idler: a standard of value entirely independent of work.

John, thanks for the great post! Also everyone for the comments. Josh and I hope this book inspires lots of further philosophical discussion, the idlest and most divine form of human pursuit.



CK Dexter 12.04.08 at 2:10 pm


Would you consider a post on the recent attempted smackdown of Zizek in the New Republic? ( I recall you’ve made some thoughtful critical posts about Zizek in the past that take his work seriously and interpret it carefully, and the NR review doesn’t seem to have these virtues, so I’d be curious to hear what you think…


CK Dexter 12.04.08 at 2:19 pm


“For instance, I get bored so easily that I generally have to listen to something and read something while walking down the street, even if it’s only for a minute or two. What has that to do with apathy?”

I don’t think this is apathy, but a form of passivity. The ability to not be bored is an active faculty of maintaining or cultivating interest. It’s something anyone who enjoys a challenging or difficult interest knows how to do. E.g., when reading a challenging piece of scholarly or literary writing, we have to maintain interest to get through the heavy bits, since they’re crucial to appreciating the whole. But then maybe this passivity is ultimately grounded in laziness. It takes work to be interested, to love, to care.


ejh 12.04.08 at 2:33 pm

<i<It’s something anyone who enjoys a challenging or difficult interest knows how to do.

I doubt this. I’m a good standard chessplayer, which is a challenging interest if there ever was one, and I can’t maintain my interest in anything (or not exclusively) for more than a few minutes.


ejh 12.04.08 at 2:38 pm

Whoops, sorry about that. Though it kind of demonstrates my point.


Walt 12.04.08 at 2:38 pm

Emerson is too enervated from a lifetime of sloth to participate in this thread.


deliasmith 12.04.08 at 2:56 pm

Joah @ 6: “New Visions of Hill” – an interesting Freudian slope.

Badoom Tish


deliasmith 12.04.08 at 2:57 pm

I seem to have invented a new Old Testament figure – halfway between patriarch a trumpeter


Rich Puchalsky 12.04.08 at 3:06 pm

Read Hirsch, Social limits to growth. Perhaps a coalition of the strivers and the idle will demand that the idle be supported without work — the idle, because this will permit them to be idle; the strivers, because this will leave more social-status points for them.


mracine 12.04.08 at 3:18 pm

I can only offer my mother’s dictum, offered at every complaint of being bored: “There are no boring times, only boring people.”


richard 12.04.08 at 3:22 pm

Shades of Josef Pieper’s Leisure: the basis of culture.


Dave 12.04.08 at 3:52 pm

In a time of increasing antagonism to those perceived as ‘spongers’, I doubt it.

Incidentally, re. #9 above – how do you stick up for someone who prefers Leninism to social democracy, except by hoping he’s not being serious?


MQ 12.04.08 at 4:03 pm

This book is bullshit, man. First of all, no one who publishes a book is really an idler. Second, and more important, the last things we need is some fraud introducing class distinctions among the lazy, who are already an oppressed class. Idlers looking down on slackers who are contemptuous of lazy bums…THAT’S THE LAST THING WE NEED! Slacker solidarity!


PG 12.04.08 at 4:12 pm

Josh Glenn @ 7,

I very much like your explication of boredom here. It is just what I had in mind when I named my blog, started while I was bored at work, from Bertrand Russell’s remark, “Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.” This seems to have something to do with the good old Protestant fear of what they called idleness, and the phrases that rose up around it, like “Idle hands are the devil’s tools.” What they really seem to have meant was boredom, not idleness; the truly idle person doesn’t have any surplus energy to lend to the devil.


Cannoneo 12.04.08 at 4:55 pm

IIRC Roger Waters’ term for the other member of Pink Floyd when he left was “lazy sleepwalking bastards.”

Is there a long German word for the contempt the hard-working feel for the idle or uncommitted? Lazysleepwalkingbasterdpergriffen?


John Holbo 12.04.08 at 5:02 pm

CK Dexter, re: Zizek in TRN check out the comment thread to this post:

Hey Josh, hey Mark, glad to see you in the thread.


Cannoneo 12.04.08 at 5:03 pm

See also Roy Keane on the FAI and Mick McCarthy. “I don’t rate you” being the professional footballer’s equivalent to the old Southern term “no ‘count.” Someone should write a book from the opposite perspective.


marcel 12.04.08 at 5:21 pm

Many of these comments – perhaps the book as well – strike me as prime examples of lazy thinking.


Katherine Farmar 12.04.08 at 5:24 pm

Am I really the first person in this thread to mention The Idler magazine? The various editors and contributors of The Idler have been mulling over these matters in a leisurely sort of way for over ten years. The magazine was once a monthly; then it became a quarterly; then an annual; now it comes out when the editors feel like it. The same people have put out various companion volumes, including The Idler’s Companion (which includes extracts from Russell and Lafargue and “Bartleby”), How to be Idle, How to be Free, and The Book of Idle Pleasures, all of which I recommend to anyone with an interest in these matters.


a. y. mous 12.04.08 at 6:51 pm

When I feel like idling, I open up a web browser on my PC and type in the address bar.

It Works! © ®


Ginger Yellow 12.04.08 at 8:44 pm

“But: Ginger Yellow, it doesn’t sound like you’re bored, to me. You’re restless. ”

You may be right. It sure feels like boredom though.

The ability to not be bored is an active faculty of maintaining or cultivating interest. It’s something anyone who enjoys a challenging or difficult interest knows how to do. E.g., when reading a challenging piece of scholarly or literary writing, we have to maintain interest to get through the heavy bits, since they’re crucial to appreciating the whole.

But I don’t have any problem doing that. Indeed, I’m often reading challenging writing to avoid boredom while walking down the street or taking a lift or whatever. Now perhaps you’d say I should maintain or cultivate an interest in my surroundings while walking. Which is fair enough in general, except that when you walk the same stretch of road several times a day for several years, maintaining interest in it borders on monomania. And besides, it’s wasted time that I could be spending investigating something interesting.


JP Stormcrow 12.04.08 at 10:05 pm

“Is a product of idelness when appended to its quotation” is a product of idleness when appended to its quotation.


James Wimberley 12.04.08 at 10:16 pm

Always scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr Holbo?


Josh Glenn 12.05.08 at 1:22 am

Thanks, everyone, for the comments. Katherine, I used to be a contributing editor to The Idler. I wrote a short series about Idler Etiquette, and a few features on “Idle Idols” like Henry Miller and Baudelaire. (I published a zine/journal called Hermenaut; The Baffler and The Idler were sister publications — we all wrote for each other.) A preliminary version of the Glossary appeared in the first perfect-bound issue of The Idler (#25), in 1999. And I dedicated this new book to the Idler’s editor, Tom Hodgkinson, a good friend who just stayed with me here in Boston recently. So yes — all hail The Idler.


john holbo 12.05.08 at 2:56 am

Hey Mark, I fear I must have read your introduction a bit too – what’s the word? – lazily? Idly? Because I didn’t really notice that you had that bit about Lao Tzu, which basically anticipates the point of my post. Lucky miss on my part! Because if I’d noticed I might have despaired of having a clever point to score off you in public, and thereby failed to write the review entirely. So the reclining posture in which I drowsily perused the volume provided an unexpected benefit for all of us.


felix culpa 12.05.08 at 4:28 am

“the experience of boredom can trigger the more enduring, horrible-yet-enlightening states I’ve called ennui or spleen.”

Although I feel that inquiry into “horrible-yet enlightening states” is idle without reference to the benchmark, the “horror of great darkness” visited upon Abram in his encounter with YHWH; the emptiness at the heart of all things (including oneself), the isolate lostness in an unbounded vastness of Nothingness. Truly nauseating and dreadfully ‘enlightening’ horror as the final truth from which all of society and culture is a desperate distraction.
So get busy!

Ah, the pleasures of the idle mind.


Josh Glenn 12.05.08 at 4:52 am

Felix — enlightening horror makes several appearances in the Glossary. I redefine AVOIDANCE, for example, so it’s no longer a “passive-aggressive means of abandoning your responsibilities” and becomes instead “the act of clearing away received truths, in order to face the Void.” Speaking of the Void, the most well-received thing I ever wrote for The Idler was an essay on hangovers (I was in my mid-20s at the time) as a route to enlightenment.


Sandwichman 12.05.08 at 6:12 am

The Sandwichman will be posting The Sandwichman Stimulus Plan tomorrow on EconoSpeak. Walter Benjamin, in his Arcades Project referred to the sandwich man as the “last incarnation of the flaneur”. The flaneur was the archetypal Parisian idler. So, in effect, it will be an idler’s stimulus plan, which, although that may sound somewhat contradictory, is entirely consistent with J.M. Keynes thoughts about post-war full employment, as stated in a letter to T.S. Eliot.


ejh 12.05.08 at 10:09 am

Is there a long German word for the contempt the hard-working feel for the idle or uncommitted? Lazysleepwalkingbasterdpergriffen?

I asked a couple of Spanish friends the other day if there was a Spanish term to express the concept “can’t be bothered”. I had to explain the concept: they were unable to think of an equivalent.


Mark Kingwell 12.05.08 at 1:03 pm

Ha! Clearly this is the really clever point. I can’t ever complain of being misread if reading ‘correctly’ is made to feel like WORK…


felix culpa 12.05.08 at 2:37 pm

Academic anointing; your value as a person who must be listened to is contingent upon the degree you prove yourself capable of juggling multiple obscurities, and finer-grained deep obscurities offer higher status to what, frankly seems to me a False Idle, a pretense that ‘disembodied’ thought stands outside the Labour City limits, and that on two counts: it suggests that reflection is not labour; and that labour is a bad thing, equivalent to drudgery.
Here of course we return to the question of ‘subjective? moi?’ Aquinas understood himself blessed in the act of cleaning stables. Perhaps it drew him closer to the void; it might well draw me that way. But he was on good terms with the horror, I think, and suggest that his ‘saintliness’, his calm, was not a function of a childlike, innocent mind (re his last confession) but one who having stood in the void had no trouble keeping his footing in God’s own world.
This all draws me toward the possibility that boredom, expressed in other than terms none-too-searching (the far less interesting side of idleness), is unease in the face of impinging Chaos, when we feel exposed, ill-defended, because our customary idle pleasures have proven themselves fair-weather friends.
Nor, reverting to popular psychology, should we discount the notion of boredom as more precisely an expression of hostility or anger frustrated by social convention.

The void and I thank you for your kind words, especially the void.
Is this the same Idler that was published by David Warren in Toronto? I recall being incensed by one of their pet reactionaries and devoting the better part of a week to a response, which friends discouraged me from posting; too much abrasive irony, or something. Somewhere back in the late Eighties.

Lovely. Thanks.


gl nelson 12.05.08 at 4:29 pm

Hello. I’m Garth, and I am a faineant. These thoughts are being transcribed by my mother’s mind reader-cum- housekeeper. I intentionally stopped “doing things” about two years ago. Now, I find, to my delight or chagrin (I’m not sure which, and caring enough to make the distinction has become so so difficult.), I’m also thinking less. My ideas begin to fade after fifty or sixty . . .words . . .until . . . .


novakant 12.05.08 at 4:48 pm

I don’t have anything interesting to say, but the topic reminded me of the following books that each deal with the matter in one way or another (and they’re good too):

Huysmans: A Rebours
Flaubert: Bouvard et Pecuchet
Alasdair Gray: 1982, Janine


Nick 12.06.08 at 6:07 pm

As ever, the godlike genius of the late Vivian Stanshall had something to say about this –
Please note, you may experience some levels of bordem while watching this . . .


Nick 12.06.08 at 6:08 pm

Bordem? Good grief . . .As in Javier presumably . . . .


Josh Glenn 12.06.08 at 6:16 pm

Felix, I wrote for the British zine/journal called The Idler, not the Canadian magazine.

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