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How to be Idle    by Tom Hodgkinson order for
How to be Idle
by Tom Hodgkinson
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Tom Hodgkinson is founding editor of The Idler. Now, he offers us a literary instruction manual on How to be Idle, with advice on how to say 'yes to fun, freedom and pleasure' for every hour of the day and night. Each chapter opens with a quote and a black and white sketch of a scene of happy idleness.

Hodgkinson begins, in 'Waking Up is Hard to Do' at 8 a.m., with a rant against Benjamin Franklin's 'early to bed and early to rise' aphorism (as well as against the alarm clock and Mr. Kellogg), and ends, at 7 a.m. in 'A Waking Dream', quoting Shakespeare and advising us that 'Dreamland is the original cyberspace, our own built-in spiritual virtual reality'. Along the way he presents poets and philosophers, humorists and historians. He takes us back to happier times 'before the invention of the dark satanic mills' of the Industrial Revolution, and quotes Clint Eastwood on the nature of progress, Sherlock Holmes on sleeping in, and Shrek on the importance of 'the misfits, the weirdos, the wanderers, the flakes, the poets, the vagabonds, the idlers - who make life worth living.' He advocates a new 'Slow Food' movement.

I especially enjoyed chapters on 'Time for Tea', 'The Ramble' (the passeggiata in Italy), and on 'The Art of Conversation' ('Good conversation is a mark of generosity of spirit.') I recommend How to be Idle to you as a series of entertaining essays (witty and often wise) on a subject dear to most of our hearts.

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