Catalogue

COVID-19: Updates on library services and operations.

Doing nothing : a history of loafers, loungers, slackers, and bums in America /
Tom Lutz.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
description
ix, 363 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0865476500 (hardcover : alk. paper), 9780865476509 (hardcover : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
author
imprint
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
isbn
0865476500 (hardcover : alk. paper)
9780865476509 (hardcover : alk. paper)
catalogue key
5892360
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [321]-354) and index.
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
American Book Award, USA, 2008 : Won
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
Excerpted from Doing Nothing by Tom Lutz. Copyright 2006 by Tom Lutz. Published in May 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved. I CODY ON THE COUCH In which the author confronts his son's lazinessand remembers his own, past and presentwith comments on welfare queens, workfare, and preemployment testingthe emotional nature of the work ethicwork in the ancient worldTocqueville, Thoreau, and Whitman on work in America and the trouble with fathersslacker moviesacademic work and other questionable laborsanswers to "What makes good work good?" and "What did Jesus do?"hippies and other dropoutsand the Way of the Slacker. "Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler." samuel johnson, the idler, april 15, 1758 I began this book shortly after my son, Cody, at the age of eighteen, moved from his mother's house into mine. His plan was to take a year or two off before beginning college, and he had come to Los Angeles with uncertain plans. His older sister had moved out a couple years earlier and had a fairly glamorous Hollywood job, and he thought maybe he could get a foot in that door or, perhaps, end up in a hot new band and become a big (alternative) rock star. Either way, he was coming west, the young man, and I looked forward to having him in the house full-time. For a decade he had lived with me only during summers and vacations, and although ours was by all measures a very good relationship, neither of us knew whether we would feel the same ratio of success and failure, the same levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with each other, if we lived together all of the time. We were both excited (if a little apprehensive) about this new chapter in our lives. Whatever else, I was glad that I could give him a base from which to chase a dream or two. He knew I had taken time off before college myself. Finishing high school in 1971 without the vaguest clue as to where my life was headed, I was saved from the Vietnam draft by a high lottery number. I spent most of the next decade wandering here and abroad, doing the period's allotment of drugs (or maybe a little more), and working, whenever necessary, at whatever presented itself. I spent time as a carpenter, line cook, factory hand, piano tuner, landscaper, gymnastics instructor, day laborer and odd-jobber, lumberjack, kitchen manager and caterer, farmhand, contractor, bartender, and musician. I read Jack Kerouac early in this period and decided I would be a writer, and so all of these jobs were instantly transformed into grist for that mill. Kerouac suggested that literature's raw material could be one's own simple, edgy life, and like many other boys in prolonged adolescence who came under his spell, I became convinced that my self-absorption and confusion were worthy of commemoration in fiction. And so I became a writer. Not really; that is, I wasn't actually writing anything, and wouldn't publish my first piece for many years, but in my own often pot-, speed-, or acid-addled mind I had become a writer. While hitchhiking around or riding the freight trains, I jotted down a few desultory (and in retrospect mawkishly sentimental) journal entries, hoping that they would somehow become, without too much work, novelsnovels imbued with what I felt would be a delicious, Dean Moriarty-flavored, but updated, countercultural melancholy. And in the meantime, my search for a vocation, such as it was, appeared to have ended happily. I was a writer, and my daily life was effortless research. Every profound revelation I experienced after every joint I smoked&
Excerpt from Book
Excerpted fromDoing Nothingby Tom Lutz. Copyright 2006 by Tom Lutz. Published in May 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved. I CODY ON THE COUCH In which the author confronts his son's lazinessand remembers his own, past and presentwith comments on welfare queens, workfare, and preemployment testingthe emotional nature of the work ethicwork in the ancient worldTocqueville, Thoreau, and Whitman on work in America and the trouble with fathersslacker moviesacademic work and other questionable laborsanswers to "What makes good work good?" and "What did Jesus do?"hippies and other dropoutsand the Way of the Slacker. "Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler." samuel johnson,the idler, april 15, 1758 I began this book shortly after my son, Cody, at the age of eighteen, moved from his mother's house into mine. His plan was to take a year or two off before beginning college, and he had come to Los Angeles with uncertain plans. His older sister had moved out a couple years earlier and had a fairly glamorous Hollywood job, and he thought maybe he could get a foot in that door or, perhaps, end up in a hot new band and become a big (alternative) rock star. Either way, he was coming west, the young man, and I looked forward to having him in the house full-time. For a decade he had lived with me only during summers and vacations, and although ours was by all measures a very good relationship, neither of us knew whether we would feel the same ratio of success and failure, the same levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with each other, if we lived together all of the time. We were both excited (if a little apprehensive) about this new chapter in our lives. Whatever else, I was glad that I could give him a base from which to chase a dream or two. He knew I had taken time off before college myself. Finishing high school in 1971 without the vaguest clue as to where my life was headed, I was saved from the Vietnam draft by a high lottery number. I spent most of the next decade wandering here and abroad, doing the period's allotment of drugs (or maybe a little more), and working, whenever necessary, at whatever presented itself. I spent time as a carpenter, line cook, factory hand, piano tuner, landscaper, gymnastics instructor, day laborer and odd-jobber, lumberjack, kitchen manager and caterer, farmhand, contractor, bartender, and musician. I read Jack Kerouac early in this period and decided I would be a writer, and so all of these jobs were instantly transformed into grist for that mill. Kerouac suggested that literature's raw material could be one's own simple, edgy life, and like many other boys in prolonged adolescence who came under his spell, I became convinced that my self-absorption and confusion were worthy of commemoration in fiction. And so I became a writer. Not really; that is, I wasn't actually writing anything, and wouldn't publish my first piece for many years, but in my own often pot-, speed-, or acid-addled mind I had become a writer. While hitchhiking around or riding the freight trains, I jotted down a few desultory (and in retrospect mawkishly sentimental) journal entries, hoping that they would somehow become, without too much work, novelsnovels imbued with what I felt would be a delicious, Dean Moriarty-flavored, but updated, countercultural melancholy. And in the meantime, my search for a vocation, such as it was, appeared to have ended happily. I was a writer, and my daily life was effortless research. Every profound revelation I experienced after every joint I smoked
First Chapter
Excerpted from Doing Nothing by Tom Lutz. Copyright © 2006 by Tom Lutz. Published in May 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
I
 
CODY ON THE COUCH
 
In which the author confronts his son’s laziness—and remembers his own, past and present—with comments on welfare queens, workfare, and preemployment testing—the emotional nature of the work ethic—work in the ancient world—Tocqueville, Thoreau, and Whitman on work in America and the trouble with fathers—slacker movies—academic work and other questionable labors—answers to “What makes good work good?” and “What did Jesus do?”—hippies and other dropouts—and the Way of the Slacker.
 
Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler.”
—samuel johnson, the idler, april 15, 1758
 
I began this book shortly after my son, Cody, at the age of eighteen, moved from his mother’s house into mine. His plan was to take a year or two off before beginning college, and he had come to Los Angeles with uncertain plans. His older sister had moved out a couple years earlier and had a fairly glamorous Hollywood job, and he thought maybe he could get a foot in that door or, perhaps, end up in a hot new band and become a big (alternative) rock star. Either way, he was coming west, the young man, and I looked forward to having him in the house full-time. For a decade he had lived with me only during summers and vacations, and although ours was by all measures a very good relationship, neither of us knew whether we would feel the same ratio of success and failure, the same levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with each other, if we lived together all of the time. We were both excited (if a little apprehensive) about this new chapter in our lives. Whatever else, I was glad that I could give him a base from which to chase a dream or two.
 
He knew I had taken time off before college myself. Finishing high school in 1971 without the vaguest clue as to where my life was headed, I was saved from the Vietnam draft by a high lottery number. I spent most of the next decade wandering here and abroad, doing the period’s allotment of drugs (or maybe a little more), and working, whenever necessary, at whatever presented itself. I spent time as a carpenter, line cook, factory hand, piano tuner, landscaper, gymnastics instructor, day laborer and odd-jobber, lumberjack, kitchen manager and caterer, farmhand, contractor, bartender, and musician. I read Jack Kerouac early in this period and decided I would be a writer, and so all of these jobs were instantly transformed into grist for that mill. Kerouac suggested that literature’s raw material could be one’s own simple, edgy life, and like many other boys in prolonged adolescence who came under his spell, I became convinced that my self-absorption and confusion were worthy of commemoration in fiction.
 
And so I became a writer. Not really; that is, I wasn’t actually writing anything, and wouldn’t publish my first piece for many years, but in my own often pot-, speed-, or acid-addled mind I had become a writer. While hitchhiking around or riding the freight trains, I jotted down a few desultory (and in retrospect mawkishly sentimental) journal entries, hoping that they would somehow become, without too much work, novels—novels imbued with what I felt would be a delicious, Dean Moriarty-flavored, but updated, countercultural melancholy. And in the meantime, my search for a vocation, such as it was, appeared to have ended happily. I was a writer, and my daily life was effortless research. Every profound revelation I experienced after every joint I smoked—that is if I could remember it—became part of my stock-in-trade. I basked in this new sense of purpose and felt, vaguely, that my place in the larger world was secure.
 
My escapades never did become novels, but even now, I may as well sheepishly admit, I think of them as representing some kind of achievement. Those years of itinerancy and odd-jobbing gave me something I never could have had if I’d gone straight through college and graduate school and into the life of teaching and writing I’ve been living for the last fifteen years. I’m glad to know how to sweat copper piping, wire a three-way switch, and bale hay, how to feed five hundred people lunch and use an oxyacetylene torch and a chain saw. I feel I know, in fact, what people mean when they talk about “the value of work.” I loved the days spent rounding up cattle and moving them to fresh pasture in the Midwest, and the bizarre nights spent with those adventurous or oblivious people who pick up young freaks hitchhiking down the coast of California, or who befriend strangers they find wandering through the lonesome towns of the Great Plains. I’m grateful for the time I spent playing music in low-rent bar bands, glad that I rode the rails from Tennessee to California, from Denver to Pittsburgh, that I lived in a van on the Costa Brava, rode a motorbike through the hills of Montenegro, and choked on mosquito coils in a Thai beach hut.
 
And so I was pleased that Cody, instead of just following the crowd into college, was taking a more adventurous path. “Anyone can float along with the tide,” my father used to say. “Even a dead dog can do it.” In a classic case of parenting gone awry, my father said this hoping it would help me resist the peer pressure to drink, smoke cigarettes and pot, have premarital sex, and otherwise imitate Kerouac in the ever-swifter currents of the late 1960s. I adopted it as the moral underpinning for my rejection of everything else he ever said.

Excerpted from Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America by Tom Lutz
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2006-05-01:
Motivated to examine what drives the slackers and loafers of America by the jolting realization that his 18-year-old son is a practitioner of "doing nothing," popular historian Lutz (Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears), himself an admitted quasi workaholic, studies the lives and ideas of 18th- and 19th-century American and British figures who helped shape the work ethic and the rebellion against it (e.g., Oscar Wilde and Theodore Dreiser). He then romps through the 20th century, citing the opinions of such figures as Thorstein Veblen, Bertrand Russell, and George W. Bush, whom Lutz calls our "slacker president." Throughout, he refers to mass media representations of the worker v. slacker issue, (e.g., Seinfeld), eventually concluding that the societies with the strongest work ethic (e.g., Japan, the United States) are precisely those societies that breed the strongest slacker culture. And, indeed, after the long struggle to write this book, Lutz now looks forward to doing nothing (while his slacker son, ironically, works 14-hour days). Although marred by an overload of supporting cultural and historical references, this is an entertaining, enlightening, and engaging history. Recommended.-Jack Forman, San Diego Mesa Coll. Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2006-02-13:
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 fl?neurs 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. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2006-11-01:
Lutz (Univ. of Iowa) previously tackled historical topics (American Nervousness, 1903 (1991); Crying (CH, Mar'00, 37-4177) with an informal style that enabled him to unravel personal and social developments behind literature and surface culture. In this extended essay on the history of the Anglo-American anti-work ethic from the 18th century to the present, Lutz cannot avoid discussing the interplay between the anti-work ethic and its opposite, the mandate for work and achievement. He restates much of his earlier writing on the diagnosis of the disease of neurasthenia as related to the tensions between the world's demands for work and individuals' desire to take it easy, and identifies the emergence of the many tramps at the turn of the century as a symptom of changing expectations of work. In the 20th century, the "loafer" was first named as a person who failed to serve in WW I, but later was known as a general good-for-nothing. The loafer was variously associated with flappers and their writer friends, Depression era hobos, playboys or bohemian beatniks, and commune residents and other forms of dropouts. More recently, "slacker" was revived for those who appear not willing to participate eagerly in the capitalist economy, but as Lutz demonstrates, the economy itself often integrates its slackers quite effectively. A fascinating book-length essay. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. A wide variety of public and academic libraries. C. K. Piehl Minnesota State University, Mankato
Reviews
Review Quotes
Praise forCrying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears: "Highly readable . . . A fascinating and thoughtful book." MERLE RUBIN,Los Angeles Times
Praise for "Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears": " Highly readable . . . A fascinating and thoughtful book." -- MERLE RUBIN, "Los Angeles Times"
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, February 2006
Booklist, April 2006
Library Journal, May 2006
Los Angeles Times, May 2006
Boston Globe, June 2006
New York Times Book Review, June 2006
Choice, November 2006
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Long Description
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.
Main Description
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, a chorus of slackers has held the pretensions of hardworking respectability up to scorn. Reviled by many, heroic to others, these layabouts stretch and yawn their way through life and literature while the rest of society sweats. Their history is nothing less than the history of labor in negative. From Benjamin Franklin's "air baths" to Jack Kerouac's dharma bums to Generation X slackers and beyond, the case studies in Doing Nothing prove that anti-work ethic proponents have held an underrecognized place in modem culture. With verve and wit, Tom Lutz illuminates the changing place of leisure in America and, in doing so, shows us idleness (and work) in a new light. Book jacket.
Main Description
From the author of Crying, a witty, wide-ranging cultural history of our attitudes toward workand 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.
Main Description
From the author ofCrying, a witty, wide-ranging cultural history of our attitudes toward workand 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 Nothingrevises the way we understand slackers and work itself.
Main Description
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.Praise for Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears: Highly readable . . . A fascinating and thoughtful book. MERLE RUBIN, Los Angeles Times
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Cody on the Couchp. 3
The Idler and His Worksp. 56
Loungers, Romantics, and Rip Van Winklep. 76
Loafers, Communists, Drinkers, and Bohemiansp. 103
Nerve Cases, Saunterers, Tramps, and Flaneursp. 141
Sports, Flappers, Babbitts, and Bumsp. 176
Beats, Nonconformists, Playboys, and Delinquentsp. 215
Draft Dodgers, Surfers, TV Beatniks, and Hippie Communardsp. 247
Slackersp. 281
Bibliographyp. 321
Indexp. 355
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem