The Art of the Wasted Day

The Art of the Wasted Day

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.

Title:The Art of the Wasted Day
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780525429647
Format Type:

About Patricia Hampl

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


    The Art of the Wasted Day Reviews

  • Diane S ?

    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 ...

  • Diane Barnes

    I was equal parts bored and fascinated....

  • Joan

    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...

  • SabirSultan

    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 ...

  • Sara

    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. ...

  • 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 bo...

  • Rebecca

    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 li...

  • Arup Guha

    I have a special liking for prose by poets. They seem more like long poems that pure prose. Having read prose by Joseph Brodsky, I now actively look for non fiction written by poets. Patricia Hample w...

  • El

    Interested based on this article."Each day was exactingly scheduled, hours given to study (languages especially: Italian, Spanish), transcription of admired texts, drawing and sketching, long walks, c...

  • Annagrace K.

    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 asl...