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The Art of the Wasted Day

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  992 ratings  ·  234 reviews
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 "
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 17th 2018 by Viking
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Liz Pardey Oh indeed, I think her mission in life is to revitalize the essay as a legitimate literary form. Her "The Florist's Daughter" is an earlier extended e…moreOh indeed, I think her mission in life is to revitalize the essay as a legitimate literary form. Her "The Florist's Daughter" is an earlier extended essay/memoir. She rambles, theorizes, mulls and develops her ideas. You could call her books one extended essay or a collection of four or five essays with a common thread. (less)

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Diane S ☔
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Diane Barnes
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I was equal parts bored and fascinated.
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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
I enjoyed this meandering daydream of a memoir that is loosely structured around a kind of literary tourism to sites associated with writers who followed contemplative lives, e.g. the Ladies of Llangollen in Wales; Czech monk and founder of genetics, Gregor Mendel; Montaigne, French inventor of the essay; and Hampl herself. The end of a lifetime of such trips is what she considers her trip of a lifetime, a two-week journey of only 200 miles with her late husband, on their 33-foot, wooden, Chris ...more
Jun 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
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
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 ...more
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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 ...more
Arup Guha
Aug 08, 2018 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
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 ...more
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. ...more
Melody Warnick
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Hard to do a review on this book. At times I enjoyed the read and at other times I found it boring. Her writing style is very interesting and she is a consummate story teller. I love the title but it was difficult for me to relate it to the book. I loved how she traveled around the world and experienced the settings of various writers. Most interesting was her Minnesota roots and incorporation of Minnesota places. I would give it a 3.5 mainly because it stretched my reading ability, improved on ...more
Kevin Hodgson
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
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?
Oliver Badman
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Cathryn Conroy
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
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.
May 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Adam Barr
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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?
Aug 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A maddening number of incomplete sentences, but also some truly magical lyrical descriptions. An unevenly enjoyable read.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
I forced myself to keep reading, but half way through I decided I was really wasting my time.
One of the early chapters was interesting, but then it became BORING!
May 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mcls-audio, dnf
I did not finishing listening to this audio book. Too much stream of consciousness meandering and too little on the lost value of leisure and daydream.
Jun 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
Audiobook. Goodreads reviewer Dianne wrote my review for me: “Equal parts boring and fascinating.” I have no idea why I stayed with the book as it seemed mostly a memoir. I’d skip.
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
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 ...more
May 30, 2018 added it
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
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-bio
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 ...more
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Patricia Hampl’s most recent book is The Florist’s Daughter, winner of numerous “best” and “year end” awards, including the New York Times “100 Notable Books of the Year” and the 2008 Minnesota Book Award for Memoir and Creative Nonfiction. Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime, published in 2006 and now in paperback, was also one of the Times Notable Books; a portion was chosen for The Best Sp ...more

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