16 05 2007
“Doing Nothing” (Tom Lutz)
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a historical review of slackers, loafers, loungers, bums, saunterers, tramps, flaneurs, communists, bohemians, beats, non-conformists, hippies and stoned out surfers. in short, the founding principles of Slouch.
well, it’s obvious that Lutz isn’t a slacker with a book that tops out at over 300 pages and a bibliography that spans 31 pages. now that I’ve finished the book, i’m firm in the feeling that he really isn’t even qualified to write an objective book on slack. Lutz’s research is exhaustive and overwhelming. page after page he piles on obscure references to outdated slacker plays like “The Crowd”, performed in Brittan in the late 19th century, articles such as “In Praise of Idleness” published in Harpers Magazine in October of 1932 by Bertrand Russell, and all the books of the 17th century English farmer Jethro Tull. Talk about thorough. Lutz has all his facts in a line, which is why I found it strange that in ending the book he chalked up slackerdom, its heralders and detractors as basically people of differing opinions on the value of work.
300 pages to get to that? ha! Lutz is a smart guy and he loves showing off all the historical shit he knows. however, in dealing with the events of his own lifetime, he continues to lean on his book learnin’ instead of his real life experience and it falls a bit flat for me.
also- why is there a huge section in the last chapter about modern Japan when this book, up until that point had been almost exclusively American or Anglo based? did Lutz what to show off the fact he was slumming it in the ghetto-chique arty areas of Tokyo?
while we’re on complaints, why did the greatest slacker book of this generation, “Jesus’ Son” only get a passing mention in one of Lutz’s
autisticially thorough lists of slacker books of the 80’s and 90’s? ok, I get that Linklater’s “Slackers” and Coupland’s “Gen X” were big but “Jesus’ Son” set the stage for them and continues to be one of the most popular slacker angst books ever written by someone not named Bukowski… speaking of, where the fuck was he in this book?
Jim Jarmusch’s “Ghost Dog” is not a slacker movie at all. Ghost Dog follows the way of the Bushido, which takes a lot of fucking work.
the other day i was at work with my feet up on my desk reading this book and someone was like, wow, you’re really getting into Doing Nothing. and I was like, hell yeah.
Tom Lutz has incomparable learned knowledge of slackerdom, which he translates elegantly in this very poignant book. From Rip Van Winkle to the cast of Clerks, Lutz gives us the history and attempted reasoning behind the desire to do nothing along with the historical reactions and aggravations of the ambitious side of society.
it’s no secret that slackers are loathed, but why? is it because they can get away with doing as little as possible and thumb their noses at the capitalistic more of more is better and greed is good? or are they an even more insidious parasite that can ruin the moral fiber of society, destroy the economy and spread rampant disease? Lutz tackles these questions with vigor, as he relates how the ease of slackers hasn’t always been so easy.
slack gives way to work starting in 1730, as Ben Franklin, who coined the term time is money, claimed in his Poor Richard Almanacs that work is the way to “moral perfection”-
It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part of their time, to be employed in its service. But idleness taxes many of us much more, if we reckon all that is spent in absolute sloth or doing of nothing, with that which is spent in idle employments or amusements, that amount to nothing. Sloth, by bringing on diseases, absolutely shortens life.
During the industrial Revolution, factory owners found slackers to be the bane of their existence. Societal pressure to succeed and gain wealth makes the idea of daily toil a worthy way for a man to spend his life. Anti-Tramping laws of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries made it illegal for a man to be unemployed and poor. The labors movements of the time seeking decent working conditions, wages and ten hour days were labeled as threatening by the government and big business giving men more idle time to “drink and gamble.”
still, the slackers have flourished thanks mostly to their eternal disinterest in whatever the rest of society worships. for it has always been the idle man whom has given society beauty through art and literature- because the idler lives on a whim and beauty can only be found with the patience and ease of an idle observer. Samuel Johnson, Pablo Picasso, Henry Thoreau and Oscar Wilde were all convicted slackers who produced great art. Slackers also make great heroes, Rip Van Winkle, Tom Sawyer, Jeff Spicoli- people who are loveable and worth rooting for because they march to a different beat.
now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to open a beer and go lay on the couch.