Good books about idleness / laziness / lack of ambition
March 14, 2013 11:26 AM   Subscribe

The British seem to have a particular talent for this (e.g. Wodehouse and Jeeves, Amis and Lucky Jim), so I'm eager to hear more about British authors, but I'm also open to other suggestions.
posted by jtothes to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Oblomov is a young, generous nobleman who seems incapable of making important decisions or undertaking any significant actions. Throughout the novel he rarely leaves his room or bed and just manages to move from his bed to a chair in the first 50 pages.

See also: superfluous man.
posted by griphus at 11:29 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

John Tottenham writes poetry along these lines. I quite like it.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:32 AM on March 14, 2013

Ooh! Another metafilter thread where it's appropriate to recommend Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley. It's a book about a whole house full of do-nothings. And it's funny! And short!
posted by phunniemee at 11:33 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

The writer protagonist of At Swim-Two-Birds (by Flann O'Brien) is one of my favorite lazy characters. The opening line: "Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes' chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression."
posted by thetortoise at 11:40 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces.
posted by Currer Belfry at 11:46 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

English, August has I think been called the "Indian Catcher in the Rye," which I think is kind of a shame since I enjoyed it a good deal more. It's about a fairly westernized young civil servant posted in Nowheresville who spends his time getting high and wondering what the hell he's doing.

And as you know, the Indians are more British than the British.
posted by psoas at 11:50 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

The manifesto: How to Be Idle
posted by Ideefixe at 11:50 AM on March 14, 2013

Alan Hollinghurst is pretty fantastic at decadent idleness (and is, yes, very British). Even when his characters are in motion he describes them as though they're at rest. The best example is probably The Swimming Pool Library. And then there's Waugh's very indolent Brideshead Revisited, to which Hollinghurst owes a particular debt.
posted by libraritarian at 12:11 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jerome K. Jerome. I haven't read his Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, but Three Men in a Boat and its sequels certainly show a keen appreciation of the joys of idleness. (Also they are flipping hilarious.)
posted by pont at 12:12 PM on March 14, 2013

In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell
posted by amb at 12:13 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know how many times I've recommended Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes in Ask MeFi by now, but yeah, once again, A Fan's Notes.
posted by escabeche at 1:43 PM on March 14, 2013

There's the "Essays in Idleness" by KenkĊ.
posted by kickingtheground at 3:20 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding "Essays in Idleness," a.k.a. Tsurezuregusa, available for free in an old translation. I populated a good chunk of a fortune.dat with quotes from it in college.

The theme isn't exactly laziness, but Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine is a witty novel about the idle thoughts / idle moments of an unambitious office worker extremely aware of passing moments of what would generally count as nothing happening, though it's really all kinds of stuff.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:27 PM on March 14, 2013

Robert Heinlein has story-within-a-story called 'The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail'.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:10 PM on March 14, 2013

Not a book but this is a good article -> Procrastination is not laziness.
posted by MetaPenguin at 11:08 PM on March 14, 2013

A Year In The Life of The Man Who Fell Asleep. Not a lot happens, in a funny way.
posted by mippy at 5:28 AM on March 15, 2013

Le droit a la paresse, Paul Lafargue. Stuff by Albert Cossery ( "his philosophy of life in which "laziness" is not a vice but a form of contemplation and meditation" - wikipedia)
posted by nicolin at 6:59 AM on March 15, 2013

I have a copy of Doing Nothing, Tom Lutz. Want it? You could send a book in return if you felt like it. I got it used, haven't fellt the need to read it yet.
posted by theora55 at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2013

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