The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl

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It is an honor to encounter her anew, and to have her gently remind us that sometimes it’s wise to put down our to-do lists and to give ourselves over to musing out the window, to remembering that “the imagination is the crucible of freedom.”
-Star Tribune

Synopsis

“A sharp and unconventional book — a swirl of memoir, travelogue and biography of some of history's champion day-dreamers.” —Maureen Corrigan, "Fresh Air"

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.
 

About Patricia Hampl

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PATRICIA HAMPL is the author of four memoirs—A Romantic Education, Virgin Time, I Could Tell You Stories, and Blue Arabesque—and two collections of poetry. She has received a MacArthur Fellowship, among many other awards. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
 
Published April 17, 2018 by Viking. 283 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Religion & Spirituality, Self Help, Travel. Non-fiction
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Star Tribune

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Reviewed by PAMELA MILLER on Apr 13 2018

It is an honor to encounter her anew, and to have her gently remind us that sometimes it’s wise to put down our to-do lists and to give ourselves over to musing out the window, to remembering that “the imagination is the crucible of freedom.”

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