Monday, March 21, 2011

And I'm Smiling 'Cause I Know for Me No Bell Could Ever Toll

Sven Birkerts:

For all its openness to profundity and creative insight, maybe precisely because of that, idleness is deemed objectionable. Creative insight is so often an implicit questioning of the rationales of the status quo. Idleness wills nothing, espouses no agenda of progress; it proposes the sufficiency of what is. And our aforementioned guardians find this intolerable, a defiant vote against their idea of what should be.

...I was delighted recently to open Geoff Dyer’s Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It and hear him announcing, “In Rome I lived in the grand manner of writers. I basically did nothing all day.” But Dyer seems an exception to me, a survival from another era. We are few of us in Rome, and fewer up for the “grand manner.” Who still idles? Sieving with the mind’s own Google I pull up a few names: the late W. G. Sebald, Haruki Murakami, Marilynne Robinson in her reverie-paced scenemaking, Nicholson Baker in The Anthologist…But finally there are few exemplars. Most contemporary prose, I find, agitates; it creates a caffeinated vibration that is all about competing stimuli and the many ways that the world overruns us. Idleness needs atmospheres of indolence to survive. It is an endangered condition that asks for a whole different climate of reading, one that is not about information, or self-betterment, or keeping up with the latest book-club flavor, but exists just for itself, idyllic, intransitive.