A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America
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An unrepentant former flower child, now a knowing academic, does some heavy lifting with his sociological history of goofing off.

Lutz (English/Univ. of Iowa; Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears, 1999, etc.) proves he is not at all lazy with his survey of the ongoing clash of society’s tortoise-and-hare civilizations. As the author demonstrates, loafers thrive when the world of work changes. The urge to work waned during the Industrial Revolution and again as old methods of communication altered, he contends. As social historian, Lutz provides a book awash in otiose eddies within the main currents of American (and some foreign) thought. Though lacking footnotes, his text smacks of scholarship, with perhaps a thousand entries in the bibliography—well, maybe it’s more like six or seven hundred; we were too lazy to count. Offering historical and current examples of slackers ascendant, the author of course cites Veblen, Tocqueville and Thoreau. He shares the thoughts of Ben Franklin and Sam Johnson, Oscar Wilde and Jack Kerouac. In his pages, we find Deepak Chopra, a maven named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and a gentleman sometimes known as S. Venkateswaran. The only MIAs are Studs Terkel and a guy named Earl. Lutz puts forth as leaders in the field of indolence famous loafers both fictional (Bartleby, sorrowful Werther, Ferris Bueller) and seemingly real (Anna Nicole Smith, George W. Bush). Along with Marx, Hawthorne, Dreiser, Lewis, the Agrarians, the Beats and others who have written about time-wasters and idlers, our diligent author dissects the work of moviemakers from the days when Jolson sang “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum!” to the latest French slacker film.

Much ado about doing nothing.

Pub Date: May 16th, 2006
ISBN: 0-86547-650-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2006


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