Doing Nothing

A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America

Tom Lutz

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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From the author of Crying, a witty, wide-ranging cultural history of our attitudes toward work—and getting out of it


Couch potatoes, goof-offs, freeloaders, good-for-nothings, loafers, and loungers: ever since the Industrial Revolution, when the work ethic as we know it was formed, there has been a chorus of slackers ridiculing and lampooning the pretensions of hardworking respectability. Reviled by many, heroes to others,
these layabouts stretch and yawn while the rest of society worries and sweats. Whenever the world of labor changes in significant ways, the pulpits, politicians, and pedagogues ring with exhortations of the value of work, and the slackers answer with a strenuous call of their own: “To do nothing,” as Oscar Wilde said,
“is the most difficult thing in the world.” From Benjamin Franklin’s “air baths” to Jack Kerouac’s “dharma bums,” Generation-X slackers, and beyond, anti-work-ethic proponents have held a central place in modern culture.

Moving with verve and wit through a series of fascinating case studies that illuminate the changing place of leisure in the American republic, Doing Nothing revises the way we understand slackers and work itself.

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Book Excerpts

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Excerpted from Doing Nothing by Tom Lutz. Copyright © 2006 by Tom Lutz. Published in May 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
I
 
CODY ON THE COUCH
 
In which the author confronts his son’s laziness—and remembers his own, past and present—with comments on welfare queens, workfare, and preemployment testing—the emotional nature of the work ethic—work in the ancient world—Tocqueville, Thoreau, and Whitman on work in America and the trouble with fathers—slacker movies—academic work and other questionable labors—answers to “What makes good work good?”

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Reviews

Praise for Doing Nothing

Praise for Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears:

“Highly readable . . . A fascinating and thoughtful book.” —MERLE RUBIN, Los Angeles Times

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About the Author

Tom Lutz

Tom Lutz ’s previous books include Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears; American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History; and
Cosmopolitan Vistas. He lives in Los Angeles.

Tom Lutz

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Available Formats and Book Details

Doing Nothing
A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America
Tom Lutz

Award

American Book Award Winner

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
May 2006
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429978064
ISBN10: 1429978066
6 x 9 inches, 384 pages, Includes a Bibliography and an Index
$7.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
May 2007
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780865477377
ISBN10: 086547737X
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 384 pages, Includes a Bibliography and an Index
$25.00
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