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Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America Paperback – May 15, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
Well, Lutz surprised me. People who do nothing, or at the least strive to not work, are quite an interesting crew. I ran into a lot of famous people I had never thought of as loafers before: such as Ben Franklin and Samuel Johnson. Of course the usual suspects were also there: like Kerouac and Ginsberg (and the beats in general.)
The author seems to suggest that he is something of a slacker himself. But I found that hard to believe as clearly a great deal of work went into this book. The amount of digested reading, research, review of culutral materials such as films, etc., was impressive. The writing was also quite good. Either Lutz is a very good writer or he has an excellent editor. I say that because he wove a large amount of disparate material into a fascinating narrative about people and segments of society committed to doing nothing. The pace was never boring; while the amount of information presented was always informative and stimulating. And as I read, sprawled out on the couch, I found myself reflecting more deeply on just where I fit into the argument of, to work or not to work.... I guess I'd have to say that Doing Nothing proved to be an edifying read.
In it you will find lots of references to more or less respectable intellectuals and artists who spent a great deal of their time celebrating the "slacker" ethos (before the term even existed) by advocating our inalienable right to do nothing. Of course, apart from gaining fame (or infamy) for their ideas, none of these people was actually able to overthrow the prevalent "work ethic", which proudly claims that "happiness" and "fulfilment" can only be achieved if you toil your life away.
So what IS it that makes the slacker such a nagging presence in Western culture? This is what Lutz tries to answer by looking at the development of this figure in America.
Not surprisingly, one of the first things we are told is that the "work ethic" and its converse, the "degenerate" idleness, can be traced back more or less to the Industrial Revolution. Apparently before this period humans wasted less time extolling the virtues of work. The hunter-gatherers, as we well know, were so "primitive" that they thought sleeping and playing around were just about the greatest luxuries one could enjoy - and they had plenty of that. The ancient Greeks even went so far to consider work a "curse". And we all remember how much Jesus praised the lilies in the field for... well, just standing there not doing much.
What has changed, then? Lutz's answer: "the nature of work".
As more and more people were dispossessed (i.e.Read more ›
I understand how Lutz may have wanted to just focus on white American males--following the author's adage of "writing what you know"--but there are definitely other illuminating slacker narratives created by, for, and about people of color, such as the Cheech and Chong films and Ice Cube's "Friday" film trilogy. In a section on the Greed is Good 1980s, Lutz mentions the GOP's criticisms of welfare queens during that decade, but gives no nods to any black's, Latino's, or Asian-American's takes on their own ethnic groups' laziness. (Doing Nothing includes a funny description of slackers in Japan--with that country's obvious parallels to ours in terms of work ethic, job dedication, and overwork--but that's about all the non-white ethnic representation.) May political correctness have kept him from writing about America's "brown loafers?"
In a note that will likely reveal my age, my favorite chapters talk about the Beats, hippies, punks, and dot-commers. Lutz addresses the child-like dot-com work ethic and web sites dedicated to all things slothful. If the book is ever updated, he'll have to talk about blogs and social networking sites--the NEWEST kind of self-branding and self-identifying that requires a lot of time and energy, but not a whole lot of real brainpower or sweat.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A potentially interesting and fun subject turned into a tedious and somewhat dull exercise. The main problem is that the author can't write (he's a professor at a research... Read morePublished 13 months ago by RS1994
Starts off great. Wonderful premise, very funny, and informative. Then about 75 pages in, it turns into a coma-inducing slog only an academic could love. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Ingersoll1969
Whether you are a workaholic or a slacker, you will find out pretty much everything, probably even more than you might want to know about how work ethics and the ethics of idling... Read morePublished on June 4, 2008 by J. Yeh
Sorry, but I could only recommend this book to someone who wants nothing, but dry history. The author managed to take a really fun and interesting subject and turn it into a... Read morePublished on March 5, 2008 by Christopher Green
I don't know how Tom managed to take such a fun subject and just suck the life right out of it. The subject and people he covers are interesting despite his best efforts, but if... Read morePublished on August 8, 2007 by T. Ward
It was fun finding out that there are so many loafers, including so many famous and accomplished people. But there were too many for me. Read morePublished on December 9, 2006 by andris virsnieks
My father, of blessed memory, Reuben Kelly Freedman used to say ,"Be a worker, not a shirker". And all my life I have been driven by the idea that I must be working , doing... Read morePublished on September 4, 2006 by Shalom Freedman