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Come celebrate idleness!

Posted by Christopher Shea  October 22, 2008 04:05 PM

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A conundrum: How to encourage people interested in the concept of idling to rouse themselves to come to an event … honoring idling?

Joshua Glenn, my predecessor as Brainiac's author, has certainly not been slacking since his departure from the blogosphere a few months ago -- although he has been assiduously idling. The distinction between the two lies at the heart of his new book, co-written with the philosopher Mark Kingwell: "The Idler's Glossary." Tomorrow night (Thursday, October 23), the Harvard Advocate is hosting a release party for the book, from 5 to 8 p.m. Its offices are at 21 South Street, in Harvard Square. Bestir yourselves, fellow lubbers, shirkers and scrimshankers! (9-to-5'ers will not be turned away from the door, either, even content ones.)

This book, it must be said, is no joke. Kingwell's introduction begins with a Kierkegaard quote, and carves up concepts with true philosophical rigor. "A slacker is not a true idler," Kingwell writes, "because he is engaged in the project of avoiding work, and as long as that remains the case, work's dominion remains unchallenged …"

The "genius of idling," he continues, "is not its avoidance of work but rather its construction of a value system entirely independent of work."

The glossary, a sequel of sorts to Bertrand Russell's small book of 1932 titled "In Praise of Idleness," explains exactly what it means to cabbage, and parses the distinctions among cadgers, clock-watchers, and couch potatoes -- just to touch on the C's.


For graphics-arts fans, I should add that the book is "designed and decorated" by Seth (who goes by just the one name, for those not in the know. Like me). It's quite elegant.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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