You’re flipping through one of those rotating bookshelves at Barnes & Noble. It’s filled with books you don’t need: “Baby Massage for Beginners,” “Grow Your Own Bonsai Tree,” “The Joys of Rockslide Watching.”
Okay, you know you’re going to buy one of them, you’re in their trap now; the rush of colors and plastic and the promise of neon Jesus figures free with a book on voodoo poetry are just too much. But what is this, a pocket-sized volume with a tastefully designed cover? Cartoons that don’t reference pop culture? Intelligent-sounding content?
The “Idler’s Glossary” is a book in two parts: the Introduction and the Glossary proper.
And they’re written by different people, which still means they could work well together. But they don’t. Mark Kingwell’s GRD ’91 boorish philosophizing should be skipped immediately.
The introduction suffers from its overuse of philosophical jargon juxtaposed with cheeky winks at the modern reader. Honestly, “idling must be considered in its true light as a ‘Grenzbegriff,’ that is to say a ‘threshold concept’ ”? (A claim, incidentally, that is never backed up.) A professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto should know better than to name-drop thinkers from Kierkegaard to Bataille with impunity and little regard for the structure of his essay.
With the sickening smugness of an insecure literato, Kingwell drops names like a minor-league socialite at a village fete. And often he has no real basis for quoting these “classic(s)” (when you quote something, my dear Mark, you most certainly do not affirm it as a “classic”).
Indeed, while Joshua Glenn and Kingwell delight in the fantasy of the idler, it is hard to imagine them in the role they cast for themselves. Glenn certainly seems to be a jack-of-all trades.
The second part of the book is far more entertaining.
While he might be a flaneur, Glenn is certainly not a full-time idler, merely an expert on idling. He has put together a funny little glossary which cannot fail to bring a smile to the reader’s face.
Glenn’s definitions at first amuse, and then end up creeping up in daily life with the regularity of bad Freudian slips.
“Please, Professor, I’m not a shit-heel, all I need is a few more weeks on this paper.”
“Now, Mary-Lou, don’t go and become a scrimshanker on me, I want to make this relationship work.”
Indeed, nobody could accuse any of the political candidates of being inactive, inert or insouciant; Obama’s Web site claims he’s “everywhere,” Nader just set the world record for the greatest numbers of political speeches in a day (21), and even if McCain’s Straight-Talk Express was breaking down regularly until February, he certainly wasn’t skylarking back in ’Nam (this was apparently a “minor offense” in U.S. Navy regulations).
The vice presidential nominees are at it as hard as their bosses — playboys and sybarites have been at Sarah Palin’s door, but no, she still hasn’t agreed to do that centerfold. She’s not the dress-and-breath kind of girl.
If they’re down, they should look to their sons — they’re not skivers. No Siree! They’re out to save their country.
And no, their spouses are not futzes. Just consider Todd Palin — he’s a World Champion Snow-Machine racer!
And after they’re all done with being preoccupied with punctilocrat concerns, all the campaign uptightniks can sign up for a nice period of unwork, sit in a café and drop out… Or plan for 2012.