July 08, 2005

Idle-atry

One of Roland Barthes' most amusing Mythologies was L'écrivain en vacances, "The Writer on Holiday." In it, he dissects a photo of Andre Gide in Le Figaro to illustrate how the press first de-mythologizes the celebrity ("Look! He vacations.") in order to elevate him or her immediately far above us mere drudges:

What proves the wonderful singularity of the writer, is that during the holiday in question, which he takes alongside factory workers and shop assistants, he unlike them does not stop, if not actually working, at least producing.

I was reminded of this by the New York Times review of Tom Hodgkinson's How To Be Idle. Reviewer Jeffrey Steingarten gives away the game: "With no warning, [Hodgkinson] reveals that his goal — the ultimate purpose of his idling — is to attain a visionary state."

The problem with producing a 286-page book extolling idleness (or producing a blog celebrating laziness), ultimately you feel compelled to try a little behind-the-hand wink at the reader. You see, I'm not being idle, I'm actually working mightily to attain a visionary state. Wink, wink.

To all my readers, a solemn pledge: no visionary states to be seen here, move along.

Posted by campbell at July 8, 2005 05:36 PM