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Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America

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Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America Cover

ISBN13: 9780865476509
ISBN10: 0865476500
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"[A] fascinating — although at times also frustrating — analysis of both workers and slackers throughout the past 250 years of Anglo-American history....[D]espite occasional slowdowns, the journey this book allows us to make is well worth taking. The questions it raises will remain the topic of serious discussion for many years to come." Larry Sears, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From the author of Crying, a witty, wide-ranging cultural history of our attitudes toward work — and getting out of it.

Couch potatoes, goof-offs, freeloaders, good-for-nothings, loafers, and loungers: ever since the Industrial Revolution, when the work ethic as we know it was formed, there has been a chorus of slackers ridiculing and lampooning the pretensions of hardworking respectability. Reviled by many, heroes to others, these layabouts stretch and yawn while the rest of society worries and sweats. Whenever the world of labor changes in significant ways, the pulpits, politicians, and pedagogues ring with exhortations of the value of work, and the slackers answer with a strenuous call of their own: "To do nothing," as Oscar Wilde said, "is the most difficult thing in the world." From Benjamin Franklin's air baths to Jack Kerouac's dharma bums, Generation-X slackers, and beyond, anti-work-ethic proponents have held a central place in modern culture.

Moving with verve and wit through a series of fascinating case studies that illuminate the changing place of leisure in the American republic, Doing Nothing revises the way we understand slackers and work itself.

Review:

"Lutz eases readers into this sparkling cultural history of stylish American torpor with an anecdote about his 18-year-old son, Cody, moving into his house and bivouacking on the couch — perhaps indefinitely. Lutz himself spent a decade before college 'wandering here and abroad,' so his intense anger at Cody surprised him — and inspired him to write this book about the crashing fault lines between Anglo-America's vaunted Calvinist work ethic and its skulking, shrugging love of idling. An English professor who admits to being personally caught between these warring impulses, Lutz (Crying) has a gimlet eye for the ironies of modern loafing: that the 'flaming youth' of the 1920s were intensely industrious; that our most celebrated slackers (Jack Kerouac, Richard Linklater) have been closet workaholics; that our most outspoken Puritans (Benjamin Franklin, George W. Bush) have been notorious layabouts. Lutz's diligent research on a range of lazy and slovenly subjects, from French flneurs to New York bohos, ultimately leads him to side with the bums. Flying in the face of yuppie values and critics of the welfare state, his 'slacker ethic' emerges over the course of this history as both a necessary corrective to — and an inevitable outgrowth of — the 80-hour work week." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Given his subject, it's perhaps fitting that Lutz rambles on at a slacker-like pace as he traces the rise of this lovable if exasperating cultural type." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"Though a serious study of spongers, this wry book is fun to read. With layabouts such as Theodore Dreiser, the Beats, and our epoch's own Anna Nicole Simpson on offer, cultural-history mavens won't be able to pass Lutz up." Booklist

Review:

"[Full] of supporting cultural and historical references, this is an entertaining, enlightening, and engaging history." Library Journal

Review:

"[Lutz's] incredibly engaging and offbeat meditation on the history of the American work ethic and its development over the past few centuries, and the various counter movements that have arisen to challenge it." Denver Post

Review:

"A thoughtful and very thorough author... [Doing Nothing] left me with a deeper appreciation for the value of not working. In fact, I wish I could do more of it. Alas, I cannot: these toenails aren't going to clip themselves." Dave Barry, New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Like Lutz's brilliant study of weeping, Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears, Doing Nothing is a highly intelligent, stimulatingly eclectic, and impressively learned book.... A fascinating social history of the changing face of work and the wildly varying rebellious responses to it." Gary Kamiya, Salon.com

Review:

"Razor-sharp analysis and a thoughtful argument — that antipathy toward employment is often a reaction to changing societal norms rather than an aversion to work itself — make for a surprisingly lively read." Washington Post

Review:

"A superbly detailed analysis of how our culture has reflected on these issues throughout time. Each historical period — from the first machines of the Agricultural Revolution, through the Industrial Revolution, through two World Wars and up through the dotcom '90s — is carefully examined.... The questions it raises will remain the topic of serious discussion for many years to come." Christian Science Monitor

Synopsis:

Couch potatoes, goof-offs, freeloaders, good-for-nothings, loafers, and loungers: ever since the Industrial Revolution, when the work ethic as we know it was formed, there has been a chorus of slackers ridiculing and lampooning the pretensions of hardworking respectability. Whenever the world of labor changes in significant ways, the pulpits, politicians, and pedagogues ring with exhortations of the value of work, and the slackers answer with a strenuous call of their own: "To do nothing," as Oscar Wilde said, "is the most difficult thing in the world."

Moving with verve and wit through a series of case studies that illuminate the changing place of leisure in the American republic, Doing Nothing revises the way we understand slackers and work itself.

About the Author

Tom Lutz's previous books include Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears; American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History; and Cosmopolitan Vistas. He lives in Los Angeles.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

slackerdude, August 29, 2006 (view all comments by slackerdude)
Now I know what to buy my worthless, lazy shiftless no good for anything brother in law for his birthday. I wonder why his picture isn't on the title page!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(23 of 31 readers found this comment helpful)
genezapped60616, May 24, 2006 (view all comments by genezapped60616)
You know, I had this wonderful, insightful commentary, but on second thought, I'll just wait for the Reader's Digest version.
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(14 of 38 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 2 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780865476509
Subtitle:
A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America
Author:
Lutz, Tom
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Subject:
History
Subject:
United states
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
Business Ethics
Subject:
Economic Conditions
Subject:
Social classes
Subject:
Public Policy - Social Services & Welfare
Subject:
Social history
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20070515
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes a Bibliography and an Index
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 x 0.846 in

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » American Studies » General
History and Social Science » Economics » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Social Classes

Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.50 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780865476509 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Lutz eases readers into this sparkling cultural history of stylish American torpor with an anecdote about his 18-year-old son, Cody, moving into his house and bivouacking on the couch — perhaps indefinitely. Lutz himself spent a decade before college 'wandering here and abroad,' so his intense anger at Cody surprised him — and inspired him to write this book about the crashing fault lines between Anglo-America's vaunted Calvinist work ethic and its skulking, shrugging love of idling. An English professor who admits to being personally caught between these warring impulses, Lutz (Crying) has a gimlet eye for the ironies of modern loafing: that the 'flaming youth' of the 1920s were intensely industrious; that our most celebrated slackers (Jack Kerouac, Richard Linklater) have been closet workaholics; that our most outspoken Puritans (Benjamin Franklin, George W. Bush) have been notorious layabouts. Lutz's diligent research on a range of lazy and slovenly subjects, from French flneurs to New York bohos, ultimately leads him to side with the bums. Flying in the face of yuppie values and critics of the welfare state, his 'slacker ethic' emerges over the course of this history as both a necessary corrective to — and an inevitable outgrowth of — the 80-hour work week." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[A] fascinating — although at times also frustrating — analysis of both workers and slackers throughout the past 250 years of Anglo-American history....[D]espite occasional slowdowns, the journey this book allows us to make is well worth taking. The questions it raises will remain the topic of serious discussion for many years to come." (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
"Review" by , "Given his subject, it's perhaps fitting that Lutz rambles on at a slacker-like pace as he traces the rise of this lovable if exasperating cultural type."
"Review" by , "Though a serious study of spongers, this wry book is fun to read. With layabouts such as Theodore Dreiser, the Beats, and our epoch's own Anna Nicole Simpson on offer, cultural-history mavens won't be able to pass Lutz up."
"Review" by , "[Full] of supporting cultural and historical references, this is an entertaining, enlightening, and engaging history."
"Review" by , "[Lutz's] incredibly engaging and offbeat meditation on the history of the American work ethic and its development over the past few centuries, and the various counter movements that have arisen to challenge it."
"Review" by , "A thoughtful and very thorough author... [Doing Nothing] left me with a deeper appreciation for the value of not working. In fact, I wish I could do more of it. Alas, I cannot: these toenails aren't going to clip themselves."
"Review" by , "Like Lutz's brilliant study of weeping, Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears, Doing Nothing is a highly intelligent, stimulatingly eclectic, and impressively learned book.... A fascinating social history of the changing face of work and the wildly varying rebellious responses to it."
"Review" by , "Razor-sharp analysis and a thoughtful argument — that antipathy toward employment is often a reaction to changing societal norms rather than an aversion to work itself — make for a surprisingly lively read."
"Review" by , "A superbly detailed analysis of how our culture has reflected on these issues throughout time. Each historical period — from the first machines of the Agricultural Revolution, through the Industrial Revolution, through two World Wars and up through the dotcom '90s — is carefully examined.... The questions it raises will remain the topic of serious discussion for many years to come."
"Synopsis" by ,
Couch potatoes, goof-offs, freeloaders, good-for-nothings, loafers, and loungers: ever since the Industrial Revolution, when the work ethic as we know it was formed, there has been a chorus of slackers ridiculing and lampooning the pretensions of hardworking respectability. Whenever the world of labor changes in significant ways, the pulpits, politicians, and pedagogues ring with exhortations of the value of work, and the slackers answer with a strenuous call of their own: "To do nothing," as Oscar Wilde said, "is the most difficult thing in the world."

Moving with verve and wit through a series of case studies that illuminate the changing place of leisure in the American republic, Doing Nothing revises the way we understand slackers and work itself.

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