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Book Wrangler

February 13, 2006

By Bob Patterson


Ennui To Go (The Art of Boredom) by Jon Winokur ($14.95 Sasquatch Books) is a quote collection book and not a "how to" manual, so writing a review of it may seem to be a bit of an overreach.  Quote books are usually a collection of thoughts, insights, and clever lines about one particular topic, so if it happens to be something that the reviewer likes then the reaction to the book will be positive; if the collection concerns something he disdains, then he won't find it worth the time it takes to read.


Since this reviewer collects quote books and regards author Jon Winokur as the king of the quote wranglers, it seemed likely that we would have a positive reaction to the book.  It turns out, however, that this book produced a strong emotional reaction against the sentiment expressed by the quotes and not the work of the quotor. 


Somerset Maugham once said, "Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five."  The ennui quotes from the well-to-do "been there, done that" crowd who rue the tedium of boredom provoked a wish for a chance to present a rebuttal.  It's too bad that some of the sufferers of weltschmerz lamenting a life of unrelenting luxury couldn't spend about six weeks confined to a hospital bed.  Perhaps, if they had to contend with such challenges as learning to walk again as an adult, they might find that just strolling into a bar is a something that would thrill a wheelchair bound person beyond measure.  [It doesn't matter if it's a dive bar hangout for journalists or something a bit more sophisticated such as Harry's New York Bar in Paris, where the owner might tell you about how, as a kid, he used to hang out there (because his father owned the place) with Hemingway.] 


Cyril Connolly is quoted on page 92: "About ten days' extravagance is enough before the cafard de grand luxe sets in and there emerges the point of tension which will become intolerable; the pianist in the bar who projects his personality, the electric clock that suppresses a click before not striking, the staring lift boy, the concierge who seems to know too much about us."  Just one commercial airplane flight in a wheelchair might be just what that poor bastard needed to snap him out of his oh-so-unbearable languor.


Walker Percy (pages 117-119) seems to have an awareness of the fact that participating in a tour of the Parthenon in Greece should not be boring and he has a suggestion about what to do if such a travel opportunity seems in danger of slipping by unappreciated. 


Being riled by some of the quotes, from some of the smug rich folks who have been stultified by an abundance of experiences that are rare and exotic for the less well to do, was an unexpected bonus for a reviewer who was a bit apprehensive that this new volume from Winokur would be a routine assignment to find synonyms for the superlatives we usually attach to his previous books.  We don't have everything he wrote so our selection of The Portable Curmudgeon as our personal favorite isn't a definitive example of comparison reading.  We will not only eagerly look forward to his next anthology of quotes, but, in the meantime, we will scour our favorite thrift stores and used book stores to fill in the gaps in our collection.


In Ennui to Go, we were delighted to become acquainted with the word "menefreghista," which means somebody who doesn't give a damn.  Gees, there's a lot of that going around these days; you'd think the word would have popped into our vocabulary sooner.


We have noted that in some of his previous work, Winokur has been rather stingy with the details about what were the sources for the quotes, he selected.  We pictured some frustrated quote wrangler a hundred years from now cursing Winokur for making life more difficult for those quote scholars yet to be born.  We noticed that at the end of Ennui to Go, Winokur did include an extensive select bibliography so that anyone who wonders about things, like where the quote by Ernest Schachtel on page 85 came from, will at least know that reading Schachtel's Metamorphosis should be a good starting point for their research.


We did find that Ennui to Go held our interest and it will fit in well with our collection of quote books.  It did leave us wondering if Winokur had any luck selling the film rights to this latest addition to the long list of books he has produced.


Jean-Paul Sartre is quoted on page 62, but there is no indication where that quote comes from.  Conversely, many good quotes from Sartre's Nausea seem conspicuous by their absence.  Sartre wrote - "I have no taste for work any longer.  I can do nothing more except wait for night."  Doesn't that sound like a case of ennui for sure?


Winokur ends the book with a complete transcription of the record Is That All There Is? by Peggy Lee, including the sung lyrics and the spoken narration. 


Our disk jockey has decided to play Iggy Pop's song I'm Bored to conclude this week's Book Wrangler column.  Hope you have a week that's the antithesis of boredom.




Copyright 2006 - Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com


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Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
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