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A spirited inquiry into the lost value of leisure and daydream The Art of the Wasted Day is a picaresque travelogue of leisure written from a lifelong enchantment with solitude. Patricia Hampl visits the homes of historic exemplars of ease who made repose a goal, even an art form. She begins with two celebrated eighteenth-century Irish ladies who ran off to live a life of " A spirited inquiry into the lost value of leisure and daydream The Art of the Wasted Day is a picaresque travelogue of leisure written from a lifelong enchantment with solitude. Patricia Hampl visits the homes of historic exemplars of ease who made repose a goal, even an art form. She begins with two celebrated eighteenth-century Irish ladies who ran off to live a life of "retirement" in rural Wales. Her search then leads to Moravia to consider the monk-geneticist, Gregor Mendel, and finally to Bordeaux for Michel Montaigne—the hero of this book—who retreated from court life to sit in his chateau tower and write about whatever passed through his mind, thus inventing the personal essay. Hampl's own life winds through these pilgrimages, from childhood days lazing under a neighbor's beechnut tree, to a fascination with monastic life, and then to love—and the loss of that love which forms this book's silver thread of inquiry. Finally, a remembered journey down the Mississippi near home in an old cabin cruiser with her husband turns out, after all her international quests, to be the great adventure of her life. The real job of being human, Hampl finds, is getting lost in thought, something only leisure can provide. The Art of the Wasted Day is a compelling celebration of the purpose and appeal of letting go.


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A spirited inquiry into the lost value of leisure and daydream The Art of the Wasted Day is a picaresque travelogue of leisure written from a lifelong enchantment with solitude. Patricia Hampl visits the homes of historic exemplars of ease who made repose a goal, even an art form. She begins with two celebrated eighteenth-century Irish ladies who ran off to live a life of " A spirited inquiry into the lost value of leisure and daydream The Art of the Wasted Day is a picaresque travelogue of leisure written from a lifelong enchantment with solitude. Patricia Hampl visits the homes of historic exemplars of ease who made repose a goal, even an art form. She begins with two celebrated eighteenth-century Irish ladies who ran off to live a life of "retirement" in rural Wales. Her search then leads to Moravia to consider the monk-geneticist, Gregor Mendel, and finally to Bordeaux for Michel Montaigne—the hero of this book—who retreated from court life to sit in his chateau tower and write about whatever passed through his mind, thus inventing the personal essay. Hampl's own life winds through these pilgrimages, from childhood days lazing under a neighbor's beechnut tree, to a fascination with monastic life, and then to love—and the loss of that love which forms this book's silver thread of inquiry. Finally, a remembered journey down the Mississippi near home in an old cabin cruiser with her husband turns out, after all her international quests, to be the great adventure of her life. The real job of being human, Hampl finds, is getting lost in thought, something only leisure can provide. The Art of the Wasted Day is a compelling celebration of the purpose and appeal of letting go.

30 review for The Art of the Wasted Day

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 Daydreaming, something often frowned on in our busy society of list makers. To achieve, cross out the things on our lists,but where are we rushing to, where do we hope to get.? Yet, as the author points out it is by daydreaming that we can really see things, observe our surrounding. In her musing of memories past and present the author travels ,but never alone. Many authors of wise words, Woolf,Kafka, Dickens, Whitman, accompany her everywhere. Words of wisdom, her main go to Montaigne whose 3.5 Daydreaming, something often frowned on in our busy society of list makers. To achieve, cross out the things on our lists,but where are we rushing to, where do we hope to get.? Yet, as the author points out it is by daydreaming that we can really see things, observe our surrounding. In her musing of memories past and present the author travels ,but never alone. Many authors of wise words, Woolf,Kafka, Dickens, Whitman, accompany her everywhere. Words of wisdom, her main go to Montaigne whose words of quiet contemplation has accompanied her, words she used from which to gain strength. Not a linear nor easy read by any means. Her thoughts, musings, are scattered often almost dream like. Scattered as her mind wanders here and there. She loves to visit places, famous places where notable persons have lived. She actually lived for 36 years in Scott Fitgeralds grandmother's old row house. It was also the block where Jonathan Franzen opens his novel Freedom. It is also where she met her husband. There is also a heartbreaking thread of grief running through this memoir. The author is trying to come to terms with the unexpected death of her husband. When she talks about people's need to get away, she says, "Not my problem. I don't want to get away from anyone. I want someone back. But that can't happen." This is a book of quiet contemplation. Not a quick read but I found it a worthy one. ARC from Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    I was equal parts bored and fascinated.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    You'd think a book called The Art of the Wasted Day would be perfect to read on a 2-week holiday staycation, but you would be incorrect. I'm someone who tends to feel guilty about leisure, always experiencing the nagging sense that I should be doing something more productive; I didn't used to be like this, and I hate it. I thought this book would help me feel better about relaxing and allowing my tank to be refilled, but despite its title this book isn't really about that. So what is it about? We You'd think a book called The Art of the Wasted Day would be perfect to read on a 2-week holiday staycation, but you would be incorrect. I'm someone who tends to feel guilty about leisure, always experiencing the nagging sense that I should be doing something more productive; I didn't used to be like this, and I hate it. I thought this book would help me feel better about relaxing and allowing my tank to be refilled, but despite its title this book isn't really about that. So what is it about? Well, it's chiefly about the French essayist Montaigne, who was supposedly a champion of the wasted day although frankly he seems really productive to me. And it's about two ladies in 1800s Wales who were famous for their leisurely existence—although as the book makes clear, their days were really quite structured. It's a little bit about Gregor Mendel, although most of what she writes about him is speculation. It's also Hampl's tribute to her husband, who passed on a few years ago. It's about writing, in some ways. Essentially it's an aimless, repetitive mishmash, and a rather tediously written one at that. And because Hampl was raised Catholic, a lot of the book centers on Catholicism as some kind of alleged locus of contemplation. As a former Catholic myself, I was turned off by this. I understand that religion—the rituals, the meditation and prayer—can play a large role in being contemplative and slowing down, but Judaism—the religion of the book!—was barely mentioned, and Buddhism is repeatedly couched as Easterners telling Westerners to chill out, which I thought was an offensive oversimplication. This valorization of Catholicism, this centering of it at the expense of other (older) faiths, wasn't for me. The fact that it played such a large role here meant that this book also wasn't for me. The last couple of chapters, about Virginia Woolf, poetry, and a boat trip down the Mississippi from St. Paul, MN, to Prairie du Chien, WI, were much more my speed, and the book ended on a positive note for me. Still, I'd ultimately have to call it a disappointment. If you're looking for a book about, well, about the art of the wasted day, don't waste your precious reading time on The Art of the Wasted Day. I won this ARC in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to the publisher.

  4. 4 out of 5

    SabirSultan

    I love Patricia Hampl's work. I have since I was a freshman in college and read her essay, "Of Memory and Imagination." And, I love the "The Art of The Wasted Day." As I was reading this book, I found myself marveling at the review blurbs on the jacket. How to sum up the worlds contained in this .. this memoir, travelogue, love letter to her deceased husband? How do you sum up something that felt infinite in a few sentences? On a surface level these essays are concerned with those noted figures t I love Patricia Hampl's work. I have since I was a freshman in college and read her essay, "Of Memory and Imagination." And, I love the "The Art of The Wasted Day." As I was reading this book, I found myself marveling at the review blurbs on the jacket. How to sum up the worlds contained in this .. this memoir, travelogue, love letter to her deceased husband? How do you sum up something that felt infinite in a few sentences? On a surface level these essays are concerned with those noted figures throughout history who have withdrawn to contemplate life. Or those who have withdrawn to live contemplative lives. But more than that, they are concerned with contemplating life. Hampl's life, Mendel's, Montaigne's, the Ladies of Llangollen's, etc. are all the subject of this book. In a masterful stroke, the form of the essay itself is drawn as the act of considering life. While these subjects seem specific and contained the writing is not. I have always identified heavily with Hampl's work. Which may seem strange as the parallels are non-existent. I am a queer, second generation immigrant, black man living in New York City. She is a straight, older white woman living in Minnesota. Yet, she is someone who writes from not inside of her life, but inside of life itself. Her writing is placed in time, in family history, in political history, in science, in books, and in research. She writes in terms of her experience of them. She writes of what it means to be living and consider your life and in that I relate. She writes of a life spent thinking about living and reading and writing and as such touches on something that transcends personal identity and keys into something universal. It should be also noted, that on a sentence level she is a master of her craft. Her writing is beautiful, lyrical, smart, and even wry at turns. The structuring of the book is thoughtful - multiple views and angles of the subject - how to reflect/the act of reflection. I cannot recommend this book enough.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    3.5 Interesting tale. Fully developed main character. The narrator switch in the last third of the book seems more a way of tying up loose ends rather than a literary technique that contributes to the whole.

  6. 5 out of 5

    El

    I suffer from what I consider to be wasted days. I've long been considered the "lazy" one in my family because I have had some health issues that have prevented me from being as active as others, and then I overcompensate by doing way too much and having zero leisure time, and then I get sick like I did earlier this year where I could barely get out of bed for a whole month and I had some weird bacterial attack on my face that was gross, disgusting, and embarrassing. So I have a strange relations I suffer from what I consider to be wasted days. I've long been considered the "lazy" one in my family because I have had some health issues that have prevented me from being as active as others, and then I overcompensate by doing way too much and having zero leisure time, and then I get sick like I did earlier this year where I could barely get out of bed for a whole month and I had some weird bacterial attack on my face that was gross, disgusting, and embarrassing. So I have a strange relationship with leisure. And when I have a day off and can actually do something just for fun, I sort of panic, like I'm forgetting to do something, and I'm failing at life, and I wind up staring at the ceiling (at the dead spider corpse because my ceilings are too high and I had to kill one with my baseball bat and now it's just sitting three - corpsing at me) and feeling blue. But here's Hampl telling me there's an art to the wasted day, based on her own enchantment with solitude. I love solitude. Possibly too much. I live alone now in part because of my love for solitude. I don't know exactly what I expected from this book and I'm not entirely sure if Hampl delivered, but I did enjoy her winding stories from her childhood under a tree, monastic life, a trip down the river in a boat with her husband. It all weaves together beautifully, and all throughout she references her husband as "you," and quickly we figure out that he is no longer in the picture. She never comes right out and says it, never says what happened to him, but we know he's not only no longer in the picture, but no longer alive. The fact that Hampl didn't discuss that outright was incredible to me because so often readers need to know things like that or they feel like they're missing something. And I have long argued that the things we read are filled to the brim with ambiguities or uncertainties, and it's okay as long as it's done well, which I think this was. This book makes me want to find more time for leisure. But, like, next year. Maybe. When I finish this degree.What I was trying to explain: the final page of any novel is a destination, the creation of form offering the illusion of inevitability, the denial of chaos. We don't love novels because they are like life, but because they are unlike it - deftly organized, filled with the satisfaction of shape. This shapeliness isn't "closure," a modern comfort word too airlessly psychological for the deep gratifications storytelling provides. The great carapace of the novel puts a bridle on the stampede of detail. And yet the great unsorted pile of detail - that's what a life is. Not the organization of details into shape (that's the novel), but the recognition of the welter of life - notetaking, James's ineluctable consequence of one's greatest inward energy...to take them...as natural as to look, to think, to feel, to recognize, to remember. You understood - I think you did - that I didn't think of notetaking as material, bricks for the great architecture of a boo, even if Henry James did. I was taking them for themselves. Life is not a story, a settled version. It's an unsorted heap of images we keep going through, the familiar snaps taken up and regarded, then tossed back until, unbidden, they rise again, images that float to the surface of the mind, rise, fall, drift - and return only to drift away again in shadow. They never quite die, and they never achieve form. They are the makings of a life, not of a narrative. Not art, but life training its poignant desire for art. Call them vignettes, these things we finger and drop again into their shoebox. We all have these snippets rolling around, not stories we tell, just photos that refuse to fade entirely away. These are the framed moments that decide a life and are lost to art because they aren't complete, have no resolution. They're nothing much. Essais, vignettes, memoirs - the French words our stalwart form-seeking Anglophone mind must borrow to articulate our formlessness. (p99-100) I mean, umph. Original thoughts: Interested based on this article."Each day was exactingly scheduled, hours given to study (languages especially: Italian, Spanish), transcription of admired texts, drawing and sketching, long walks, correspondence, reading, reading, reading in several languages — both silently and, at night, aloud to one another amid the glow of candles, an alarming expense of nine pounds per annum, but a requirement of the romantic reading life."Is there a sign-up sheet for that lifestyle somewhere?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paul Kelly

    Ever since I retired, I have struggled to leave behind my desire to "be productive", "useful" and "busy" and just be able to, as Blaise Pascal said, "sit Quietly in a room alone". The title of this book intrigued me as a "how to" guide to relaxing in my dotage. While the author did provide examples of successful "retirees" (Gregor Mendel, Montaigne, Whitman, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler), they were buried in an avalanche of self indulgent philosophizing and mourning her late husband. Hampl Ever since I retired, I have struggled to leave behind my desire to "be productive", "useful" and "busy" and just be able to, as Blaise Pascal said, "sit Quietly in a room alone". The title of this book intrigued me as a "how to" guide to relaxing in my dotage. While the author did provide examples of successful "retirees" (Gregor Mendel, Montaigne, Whitman, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler), they were buried in an avalanche of self indulgent philosophizing and mourning her late husband. Hampl is a good stylist who lost her way on this one. It just goes to show you, judging a book by its cover is a good way to waste a day.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Who knew that a life of leisure was my truest desire? I sort of did but I wouldn't of used those words before reading this book. I've always known I preferred being alone in perfect pockets of quiet where I could let my imagination run wild and my mind wander anywhere and everywhere, musing this or that, reading this or that, writing this or that, connecting disparate threads into something. This is when I feel the most real. To be wild and untamed and eccentric is my jam. This book was part his Who knew that a life of leisure was my truest desire? I sort of did but I wouldn't of used those words before reading this book. I've always known I preferred being alone in perfect pockets of quiet where I could let my imagination run wild and my mind wander anywhere and everywhere, musing this or that, reading this or that, writing this or that, connecting disparate threads into something. This is when I feel the most real. To be wild and untamed and eccentric is my jam. This book was part history and part memoir and mostly centered on solitude. Part of the book is about the author trekking to places far and wide where people lived the quiet life by staying in one place. In a nutshell, I would say this book is about what it is to figure out what really matters in life. The authors quest is to meet the people in history that seemed to have figured it out and to somehow transport that magic cocktail into her own life. The first few pages wind from a day of the authors childhood to her daydreaming. She makes clear from the start that daydreaming isn't about making things up. It's rather about seeng things, claiming things, twirling them around, and taking a good hard look. It's about playing with them and holding them and turning them this way and that and making something or sense of them. From daydreaming she dived into to do lists. I have a love-hate thing with to do lists. I much prefer ticklers since instead of a list staring at you, one that reminds you day after day after day that you haven't taken care of this or that, you have manageable chunks you pull out of the slot for that day. As new to-dos rise, you simply decide when you have to do it, file it in the proper day or month and forget about it. It's freeing because you don't have to think of it again till you are reminded on the day you are actually going to do something about it. It's awesome. It's a load off, until it's a load on again. I highly recommend it. I used to use a tickler at work when I had a boss that gave me extracurricular things to do for him. Super non-business like things like tracking down a shirt he'd seen in a store that when snapping a photo of said shirt neglected to look at the brand or store he was in. Or him wanting to know where to get 100 gallons of egg whites the cheapest (he had asked a muscly guy at his gym what he ate for lunch and when he heard egg whites, he just knew that was his ticket to being ripped like him). These things were definitely more palpable with a tickler. Though none the less a waste of my time. Such as the time he handed me a baggie with an iPod and chits of paper with random songs (some versions heard in cafes) and asked me to transfer them onto his iPod. I gave that one to an employee that then crashed the server because she downloaded free songs. This of course turned into a major to do akin to the one the Russian security guard caused when he kept looking at porn on all the female employees computers. My bosses solution was to give the security guard his own laptop. The book segues from to do lists into memories, used by the author as a jumping off point to look at what a full life means and wondering if amidst all the ambition and deadlines and friends and lovers and bright lights and invitations and travel if her life was being littered instead of lived. As she makes pilgrimages to haunts of those who lived lives of solitude, she tells us of their lives off the beaten path. Like the ladies that escaped marriage in 1778 to live together for fifty years in a life of leisure. How ironic that their desire to be left alone made them a curiosity that had a myriad of notable people making a trek to their abode. Her writing of her adventure to the ladies sanctuary was wonderfully told. Montaigne's tower was her holy grail but she procrastinated feeling like she had to study him before meeting up with him metaphorically. As she goes on the road to hunt down heroes of leisure she makes it clear that she doesn't mean leisure as in the deadly sin of sloth. She argues that leisure isn't idleness and it isn't simply an exhausted pause before shouldering the next task. She explains that both Montaigne and the ladies saw the act of leaving the world's stage as the best way to attain balance and integrity. Overall, I enjoyed reading of her pilgrimages. There were some really beautiful and poignant parts of her life that she shared too. It felt honest. I'm just not sure she connected the two as she wanted. It never felt woven as I would have liked, though there are some parts that were seamless. When the author talks about writing, this is where she shines and sort of sweeps the reader off her feet. Though the book is about lone souls in solitude, it is also about writing it down. She uses Augustine to suggest that not only does a writer require solitude, he or she requires to pine for it, court it, steal it away from the rest of so called real life. When the author talks about telling her beloved that she loved living with him because it was like being alone, I wondered if this is a conversation all writers have with someone. To be in the same room with someone while reading or writing or musing and having it feel the same as being alone is my Mecca. Being off the grid or on the lamb is a writers natural state when deep in it. The author ends by writing of two women that are my favorites: Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson. I'd never thought about why I chose these two as my spirit animals but as I read how this author wrote about them and solitude, their perfection at being in it, I'm struck by how that must be the crux of my admiration for them (and their wicked way with words). They are both writers that inhabit solitude more often than not. That's my posse. Most of us await approval or permission to live this life the way we want. A permission and approval that never comes because it can only come once you live the life you want. The irony being at that point approval or permission matters naught. That waiting to be discovered so that one can then create great works is the plight of so many, me included. I've always felt like no one needs what I have to say or to know how I see the world, how I see them. And for the most part that is how it has played out. But there is another part of me that is compelled to dig and to excavate and express regardless of what anyone else thinks. I think maybe I have made a grave mistake by letting anything else but that part of me flourish. The last section is where I got the most out of this book. But anywhere Woolf or Dickinson are pondered is where I want to be.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    The title almost makes it sound like a how-to manual, but it's anything but. She begins by describing how her childhood daydreaming gave way to adult self-improvement and achievement and to-do lists. After her husband died, and she had her first panic attacks, she remembered how she enjoyed a more Montaigne-inspired existence as a child, 'wasting her life to find it.' It's true it's not a linear narrative, but she states that is not her intention. "Life is not a story, a settled version. It's an The title almost makes it sound like a how-to manual, but it's anything but. She begins by describing how her childhood daydreaming gave way to adult self-improvement and achievement and to-do lists. After her husband died, and she had her first panic attacks, she remembered how she enjoyed a more Montaigne-inspired existence as a child, 'wasting her life to find it.' It's true it's not a linear narrative, but she states that is not her intention. "Life is not a story, a settled version. It's an unsorted heap of images we keep going through…that float to the surface of the mind, rise, drift--they are the makings of a life, not of a narrative." One thought or story inspires the next, she circles back around to develop her ideas as she goes. She writes beautifully, every so often there was an image I reread to fix it in my mind. She goes on a little too much about why she thinks the Ladies of Llangollen never had sex, but that was the worst flaw I found -- and her main point about them, that their fifty idyllic years together was primarily about other things, is certainly true of any long peaceful marriage.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A poet’s delight in lyricism and free association is in evidence here. The book blends memoir with travel and biographical information about some of Hampl’s exemplars of solitary, introspective living, and it begins, quite literally, with daydreaming. Along the way the author drifts and dreams through many seemingly irrelevant back alleys of memory and experience. This is a case of form following function: her book wanders along with her mind, in keeping with her definition of memoir as “lyrical A poet’s delight in lyricism and free association is in evidence here. The book blends memoir with travel and biographical information about some of Hampl’s exemplars of solitary, introspective living, and it begins, quite literally, with daydreaming. Along the way the author drifts and dreams through many seemingly irrelevant back alleys of memory and experience. This is a case of form following function: her book wanders along with her mind, in keeping with her definition of memoir as “lyrical quest literature,” where meaning always hovers above the basics of plot. Discussed as part of an essay on wasting time for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Arup Guha

    I have a special liking for prose by poets. They seem more like long poems than pure prose. Having read prose by Joseph Brodsky, I now actively look for non fiction written by poets. Patricia Hample writes with lots of information; possibly since she is a memoirist and compulsive note taker. Invaluable pieces on the two irish ladies who retired in wales and of course montaigne is included here. Then why the three stars? Personally I dont think PH has the depth of thought required to be a great e I have a special liking for prose by poets. They seem more like long poems than pure prose. Having read prose by Joseph Brodsky, I now actively look for non fiction written by poets. Patricia Hample writes with lots of information; possibly since she is a memoirist and compulsive note taker. Invaluable pieces on the two irish ladies who retired in wales and of course montaigne is included here. Then why the three stars? Personally I dont think PH has the depth of thought required to be a great essayist. Reflection yes, infact a lot, but where is the deep insight, the sudden intuition that comes from long reflection on a set of facts? I will read all her books, but primarily for information. Sadly no brodsky here.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julie Sucha Anderson

    4.5 As a writer of personal essay, and also one who watches her surroundings for hours on end, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Only reading a chapter or less a day, Hampl's beautiful prose let me float, and dream, and read. I highly recommend this book for my writing friends and for all those who want to get better at observation and daydreaming, rather than an endless To Do list.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Annagrace K.

    How fitting to finish this book today, my last full day alone in Florence, sitting at the cafe table outside my hotel on the busy street of bicycles, cars, locals, tourists, delivery men, children asleep in strollers. How lucky I feel to have had Patricia Hampl’s warm, measured voice as the soundtrack to sleepless nights and wondrous days. I have walked bravely and fearfully into a new season of feeding the roots of my creativity and this book was a benediction, a blessing for these useful hours How fitting to finish this book today, my last full day alone in Florence, sitting at the cafe table outside my hotel on the busy street of bicycles, cars, locals, tourists, delivery men, children asleep in strollers. How lucky I feel to have had Patricia Hampl’s warm, measured voice as the soundtrack to sleepless nights and wondrous days. I have walked bravely and fearfully into a new season of feeding the roots of my creativity and this book was a benediction, a blessing for these useful hours. Wasted but not in the pedestrian sense. Wasted only in the way that sleep is, that joy is, or love.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Hodgson

    I’m not sure I’ll find a book with a better title this year. And while I too often felt as she were overwriting — and how strange to overwrite on this particular topic — the moments of beauty and contemplation in her sentences kept me hooked, leading me to the final moments of quiet morning, or is it mourning?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Badman

    I loved this book, highly recommend it, beyond it's anti-self help title the book does what it preaches, a demonstration of the way thoughts connect, obliquely or obviously, in a way that is fundamental to our experience of reality. Overall it serves as high-concept comfort-food for the person who's in the passenger seat of life's ever-accelerating car. "Life is not a story, a settled version. It's an unsorted heap of images we keep going through, the familiar snaps taken up and regarded, then to I loved this book, highly recommend it, beyond it's anti-self help title the book does what it preaches, a demonstration of the way thoughts connect, obliquely or obviously, in a way that is fundamental to our experience of reality. Overall it serves as high-concept comfort-food for the person who's in the passenger seat of life's ever-accelerating car. "Life is not a story, a settled version. It's an unsorted heap of images we keep going through, the familiar snaps taken up and regarded, then tossed back until, unbidden, they rise again, images that float to the surface of the mind, rise, fall, drift - and return only to drift away again in shadow." I find Patricia Hampl so playful with ideas that she has clearly considered over a life time of her own day dreaming and thinking. With Montaigne as her hero, the original modern man and inventor of the personal essay, ("I do not portray being, I portray passing") Patricia is unbound by form or structure, there's a clear and more pressing issue here - to lose oneself in their own thoughts, empathy is only achieved when one is aimlessly thinking thus shirking their own agenda, right? And how can one really be asked in memoir to inscribe a narrative arc to their thoughts: "This is how memory works: not as transcription but as an attempt - as an essay is an attempt - to locate meaning between the irretrievable then and the equally unfathomable now". There is a lot of looking back in this book, as Hampl mind wanders and her fingers type these meanderings that serve as this book's tapestry. She dissects ideas of solitude, leisure ("isnt it leisure alone that safeguards reflection?"), the PURSUIT of happiness, the relationship between the writer and the individual dear-reader, the role of description as the essence of style of an author (description being the platform from which the reader can perceive all actions and dialogue and characters in the world of book, and in the last pages sees "emptiness of self makes a life worth living, a life worth writing."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melody Warnick

    No other book I’ve read in recent memory so vividly evokes what it was like to be a child lying in the grass staring at the trees doing nothing, and feeling no guilt for doing nothing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cathryn Conroy

    I admit it! I bought this book for the title. For me, wasting a single hour, much less an entire day, is an anathema, so I was fascinated about an entire book on the topic. As it turns out, the book is not exactly an instruction manual for being a lazy bum. Instead, it's a combination memoir/travelogue/scholarly essay on how author Patricia Hampl, an admitted workaholic, became enchanted with the innate and often underestimated benefits of daydreaming, retiring from the pressures of society, tra I admit it! I bought this book for the title. For me, wasting a single hour, much less an entire day, is an anathema, so I was fascinated about an entire book on the topic. As it turns out, the book is not exactly an instruction manual for being a lazy bum. Instead, it's a combination memoir/travelogue/scholarly essay on how author Patricia Hampl, an admitted workaholic, became enchanted with the innate and often underestimated benefits of daydreaming, retiring from the pressures of society, traveling (often alone) for self-discovery, and embracing the joys of solitude. She accomplishes this by exploring how men and women—some of whom lived almost 500 years ago—achieved this feat. And it is indeed a feat for those of us who believe in filling every hour with productive activity. This is a thought-provoking volume, which was no doubt Hampl's intent. While parts of it are absolutely riveting, quite a bit of it is rather erudite and dotted with obscure literary references, which the author (for the most part) fully explains. That said, it is charming to contemplate "wasting time" from such a serious and academic vantage. In case you need it, this book gives you "permission" to take a walk and smell the roses.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Davina

    This book was a bit more philosophical and loosely constructed than I anticipated after reading and loving The Florist's Daughter. Maybe I could not get myself in a quiet enough headspace to appreciate it, but this was a slog for me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adam Barr

    Expertly written, flowing rumination on the notion of ease versus work versus productivity -- with an eddy of gain, loss, and love. What do we make with a life, and is toil the only -- or even the best -- way?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alix

    If you, like me, like books in which hardly anything happens, this book is for you. Of course they have to be incredibly well written, which this one also is. During a pandemic, while sheltering in place alone, I probably should have by now become a past master at the art of the wasted day, but in truth I do not spend enough time in productive yet lazy contemplation. The loose threads that tie this memoir-cum-meditation together are her travels to seek out, in a sense, the ghosts of historical f If you, like me, like books in which hardly anything happens, this book is for you. Of course they have to be incredibly well written, which this one also is. During a pandemic, while sheltering in place alone, I probably should have by now become a past master at the art of the wasted day, but in truth I do not spend enough time in productive yet lazy contemplation. The loose threads that tie this memoir-cum-meditation together are her travels to seek out, in a sense, the ghosts of historical figures who had perfected the art of doing nothing, and her grief at the loss of her husband, which mostly lurks under the surface, but does appear here and there when she addresses him (the only "you" in the book) in her mind. The grief, even though (or because?) it's so subtle, I found oddly affecting. Some of the travels appealed to me more than others. For instance, the time she spent in the former Czechoslovakia, eating delicious meals in a desultory manner, really transported me (no surprise there) whereas her time at a meditation retreat was not quite as appealing. But these are personal preferences, and overall this is a quiet, pleasurable, thoughtful book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    cat

    A super loosely constructed, almost free-associative narrative that lays out the value of letting your mind wander (and your body with it!). From the Chicago Tribune review, "When Hampl suggests wasting time, she’s not talking about filling hours with mind-numbing surfing on the internet or binge-watching television or shopping for the sake of having something to do. Instead, it’s about being still, being aware, about hearing sounds, really hearing them, about seeing what is in front of your eye A super loosely constructed, almost free-associative narrative that lays out the value of letting your mind wander (and your body with it!). From the Chicago Tribune review, "When Hampl suggests wasting time, she’s not talking about filling hours with mind-numbing surfing on the internet or binge-watching television or shopping for the sake of having something to do. Instead, it’s about being still, being aware, about hearing sounds, really hearing them, about seeing what is in front of your eyes, about being open to what one thinks and remembers and feels. The whole range of emotions, even sadness." “Daydreaming doesn’t make things up. It sees things. Claims things, twirls them around, takes a good look. Possesses them. Embraces them. Makes something of them. Makes sense. Or music. How restful it is, how full of motion,” she writes.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Love the Llangollen Ladies who left Ireland and lived together for 50 years in Wales. Wanted to get away from it all and live in retirement in their Welsh vale.And they did. Hampl explores their house and haunts. Getting there and alone. Quite a trip. Waiting on wrong side of the road for the bus to their Wales haunt. She traveled alone to Prague, behind the Iron Curtain, as a young woman. Met a Palestinian in a dank smoky, state-run cafe. Didn't know what that was. Ran away from him. Felt stupid Love the Llangollen Ladies who left Ireland and lived together for 50 years in Wales. Wanted to get away from it all and live in retirement in their Welsh vale.And they did. Hampl explores their house and haunts. Getting there and alone. Quite a trip. Waiting on wrong side of the road for the bus to their Wales haunt. She traveled alone to Prague, behind the Iron Curtain, as a young woman. Met a Palestinian in a dank smoky, state-run cafe. Didn't know what that was. Ran away from him. Felt stupid and so unworldly. Gregor Mendel, the founder of genetics. Brno Montaigne Then the house boat trips she took with her husband down the Mississippi from St. Paul, MN, where they lived. The utter delight right here at home. Wistful widow. Addresses her husband often. Love this book

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nan

    First of all, how great is this title? Who wouldn't want to read about the value of "wasting" days by allowing time to engage by disengaging? Hampl is an extraordinary writer-- reflective, sensitive, and poetic. It was, however, sometimes difficult to get the connection of a few essays to the theme. Nevertheless, the parts that struck a chord were well worth it and made me look at daydreaming and contemplation in fresh ways. Actual rating: 3.5

  24. 4 out of 5

    June

    Five-star if I could spare more wasted days wandering through her beautiful prose besides getting acquainted with Montaignes wisdom without sweat. Daydreaming, lost in thoughts are my norm, my innate leisure temper sill burdens me with guilt, which proves I have yet reached her realm after lifetime experience to come up with this precious volume of ‘widow’s essais”.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristianne

    From page 161: “I didn’t think of any of these sketchy bits of writing as essays. I called them nothing at all. It wasn’t writing. It was me. ‘Sinai, lecteur, je suis moy-mesmes la matière de mon livre.’ So, reader, I am myself the material of my book. Montaigne’s inaugural words are the motto of every diary.”

  26. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    First of all, this is not a how-to book about ending the quest to accomplish all the tasks and becoming a master day-waster. What this book does do is explore the concept of "wasting the day", all be it in a rather rambly fashion. Second, this book is mostly essays or journal entries made up of notions and beautiful writing. I could get over the sections with little point and stories without endings, mostly, because at least the language was beautiful. Glad to have read it and equally glad to pi First of all, this is not a how-to book about ending the quest to accomplish all the tasks and becoming a master day-waster. What this book does do is explore the concept of "wasting the day", all be it in a rather rambly fashion. Second, this book is mostly essays or journal entries made up of notions and beautiful writing. I could get over the sections with little point and stories without endings, mostly, because at least the language was beautiful. Glad to have read it and equally glad to pick up a novel now. Worth reading. 3.5 stars

  27. 5 out of 5

    Polly

    I kept waiting for this book to start, if you know what I mean. Once I realized I was halfway through, I felt some disappointment that it was more meandering and rambling than the fanciful and whimsical book I was expecting considering the title.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    What is a wasted day? How do we understand, appreciate, and often (unfortunately) overlook the value in leisure? In The Art of the Wasted Day, Patricia Hampl explores her sense of leisure through memory and pilgrimage, conversation and contemplation. I loved her meandering reflections on reading and writing, love and loss, daydreams and Michel de Montaigne's study of the self. Along the way, I learned about the Irish ladies who retired to Wales, life in the Czech Republic, Gregor Mendel, and boa What is a wasted day? How do we understand, appreciate, and often (unfortunately) overlook the value in leisure? In The Art of the Wasted Day, Patricia Hampl explores her sense of leisure through memory and pilgrimage, conversation and contemplation. I loved her meandering reflections on reading and writing, love and loss, daydreams and Michel de Montaigne's study of the self. Along the way, I learned about the Irish ladies who retired to Wales, life in the Czech Republic, Gregor Mendel, and boating on the upper Mississippi. Most of all, I was reminded of how important it is to be open to daydreams—and to reflect on how I am spending my time, instead of always rushing on to the next thing. The idea (or the ideal) of the memoirist "whispering in the reader's ear" was certainly my experience while reading this beautiful, thought-provoking book: that I was in the company of a kindred spirit whose conversation I very much wanted to hear.

  29. 4 out of 5

    KimberlyRose

    See Diane's review and my comments on her excellent review. The end. See Diane's review and my comments on her excellent review. The end.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    A maddening number of incomplete sentences, but also some truly magical lyrical descriptions. An unevenly enjoyable read.

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