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The Idler's Companion: An Anthology of Lazy…
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The Idler's Companion: An Anthology of Lazy Literature (1997)

by Tom Hodgkinson

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Mood: Annoyed and disappointed.

It's a nice idea, to have a collection of writings dedicated to knocking down the Puritan work ethic. But the anthology suffers the serious shortcoming that it is almost entirely male -- thus leaving one to wonder whether this is a commentary on the laziness of the editors, putting into practice what they preach, or on the hard-working nature of women.

An alternative theory is suggested by the authors' note in the introduction that

The hours of research we put in at the British Library yielded a minimum of material; the off-hand telephone inquiry, the randomly browsed volume, the bookshop where the relevant works seemed to leap off the shelves and into our hands -- it was out of these serendipitous sources that the collection was hewn.

This bizarrely lopsided anthology, then, it is the fault of stray booksellers and the editors' circle of acquaintances.

Regardless of the explanation, it's too bad, because I generally like the editor Tom Hodgkinson's work, but how do you develop an anthology spanning contributors over centuries and somehow manage to find only one woman among fifty-seven? And her piece is about sex, natch.

For gods' sake, gender is the foremost category in the specialization of labor -- it didn't occur to the writers to consider that women might have something useful to say about idleness and/or the puritan work ethic?

One can only conclude that there must be something awry with the editors or the world (or, as I suspect, both).

If the former then unfortunately I find their sad failure to even consider gender in their contributors undermines their argument because first I have to conclude that works of scholarship do better with a bit of effort; and second, I find it difficult to take seriously an anthology that so evidences male privilege. Really? Men are idle? Women the world over will not be surprised. "Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, receive 10 percent of the world’s income and own 1 percent of the means of production."

I'd like to celebrate idleness, but when I'm confronted with a lot of men celebrating idleness I am inescapably forced to wonder if their female companions are picking up their men's share of the work. Hey, I'd like to be idle, and I was in fact hoping to engage in a little constructive idleness by reading this anthology. But once again I'm forced to abandon idleness to fight the patriarchy. ( )
1 vote lquilter | Jun 23, 2009 |
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