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Our culture values striving, purpose, achievement, and accumulation. This book asks us to get sidetracked along the way. It praises aimlessness as a source of creativity and an alternative to the demand for linear, efficient, instrumentalist thinking and productivity.
Aimlessness collects ideas and stories from around the world that value indirection, wandering, getting lost, waiting, meandering, lingering, sitting, laying about, daydreaming, and other ways to be open to possibility, chaos, and multiplicity. Tom Lutz considers aimlessness as a fundamental human proclivity and method, one that has been vilified by modern industrial societies but celebrated by many religious traditions, philosophers, writers, and artists. He roams a circular path that snakes and forks down sideroads, traipsing through modernist art, nomadic life, slacker comedies, drugs, travel, nirvana, and oblivion. The book is structured as a recursive, disjunctive spiral of short sections, a collage of narrative, anecdotal, analytic, and lyrical passages—intended to be read aimlessly, to wind up someplace unexpected.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Lutz is the founding editor and publisher of the Los Angeles Review of Books and Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at University of California at Riverside. His many books include Born Slippy: A Novel (2020) and Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums (2008), which won the American Book Award.
"On behalf of the society of Montaigne, Baudelaire, Benjamin, Cioran, Débord, and Luc Sante, I am happy to welcome in our ranks Tom Lutz. Rarely does one encounter such sudden pleasures in ideas, and when one does it is instant, like meeting the eyes of a particular person on a stroll or in a coffee house, and then being in love for the rest of the day or even life. The vagabond reader and the louche essay let each other dream of one another, without censors, without guilt, without the intention or hope of actually meeting. Lutz is a great flaneur, a boulevardier, educated, free to gaze, easy to divert. If a bus stops he'll take it. If he finds a book on the seat of the bus he'll read it. If he wanders into a strange neighborhood he's overjoyed by its strangeness. All his senses are activated by oddity, novelty, curiosity. He has oversized receptors for pleasure. The wanderer en dérive is essential to the city, like an active element in the blood that makes it circulate, quickens it, increases immunity and is yet open to its vices and pleasures, and may be run over by a car like Mihail Sebastian, at the apex of freedom. This intellectual wanderer sees the streets as thoughts, and thoughts as beings that can please the mind, which is the awake body. Lutz is startled by what his mind can do as he pursues his aimless and unambitious dérive in the world. "
--Andrei Codrescu, traveler and poet