Sunday, April 17, 2016

Beyond Bookshelves: Punk Stuff #3

How to Be Idle

By Tom Hodgkinson

Hodgkinson’s first book in this series of sorts, How to Be Idle follows the average day hour by hour through its chapters. It starts by discussing how people all around the world wake up on a daily basis, immediately bashing the ideas of alarm clocks and calling upon men of letter to expound the horrors of being forced to wake up early in the morning. The rest of the book follows suit.

How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto is exactly what it says on the tin, and it’s brilliant. Hodgkinson uses classic British literary references, early modern history, and call-backs to pre-Industrial Britain to explain why idleness is actually ideal. This book and the others in the series follow along the central idea that being perky, wage-driven drones is playing into the hands of our capitalist overlords. The meshing of rising early and moral rectitude, the admonishing of employees who “have time to lean and time to clean” in minimum-wage jobs, and replacing religion with materialism and competition are all key themes.

Recommended for:
People who idealize medieval peasants, people who can’t wake up before 10am for the life of them, people who are sick of capitalism, people who look at rush hour traffic and see a hoard of mindless drones, people who want a list of classic books to read after reading a book that references all of them

The Freedom Manifesto

By Tom Hodgkinson

Despite acting as a sequel to How to Be Idle, The Freedom Manifesto (also known as How to Be Free) was the first Tom Hodgkinson book I came across.

This book follows in a similar vein of How to Be Idle, organized around maxims about Housework, Fear, and Competition instead of around the hours of the day. Hodgkinson uses the initial argument against corporate strain to suggest a return to a simpler way of life in which people only use technology for communication and only work to better themselves. Much like the last book, this manifesto encapsulates the anarchist ideals of punk without suggesting a violent revolt or specifically aligning with the “big names” of anarchist philosophy. Because the book covers so much, it’s easiest to understand (as I originally did) from it’s list of mottos behind the first page:

Death to the Supermarkets
Bake Bread
Play the Ukulele
Open the Village Hall
Action is Futile
Quit Moaning
Make Music
Stop Consuming
Start Producing
Back to the Land
Smash Usury
Embrace Beauty
Embrace Poverty

And so on until we reach the last three, my favorite:

Life is Absurd
We are Free
Be Merry

Recommended for:
Wandering mistrels, back-to-the-land punks, anyone who needs a cheery productive mood boost that isn’t grating, hopeful anarchists

The Idler’s Companion: An Anthology of Lazy Literature

Edited by Tom Hodgkinson and Matthew De Abaitua

Not merely content to refer to the great minds of several generations in his other books, Hodgkinson also offers an extensive anthology lovingly organized around the values of daydreaming, sloth, and idealistic lollygagging. This book is a chance to expand on the lovingly sprinkled quotations from the first two books. Even though it’s an anthology of collected materials, the organization and thought put into the collection are just as motivating as How to Be Idle and How to Be Free.

I mean, who can feel bad about being lazy when it’s validated by famous authors, politicians, and artists?

Recommended for:
Literary anthology lovers, people who love good quotations, anyone who wants solid proof that great writers are on their side

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