Entertainment is a kind of work

Continuing to make my way through Doing Nothing. This passage particularly struck me:

I try to convince myself that some of the time I spend entertaining myself is a kind of work. I’m a literature professor, and so reading novels is work, obviously, and given the importance of popular culture these days, even the airport thrillers and mysteries are important for me to read. And I can’t ignore the more dominant forms of narrative in my own time, can I? So all those movies, all that TV — work. It’s important for me, professionally, not just to be cognizant of but to study popular culture, and so I work to stay current, watching The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Daily Show, going to see the latest Hollywood blockbusters (and of course the festival-anointed independents), reading Harper’s and The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, surfing the reality shows and Tivo-ing Billy Wilder and Michael Curtiz films. Oh, and Reno 911 (very interesting) and Iron Chef (fantastic) and Arrested Development and reruns of The Rockford Files. And of course March Madness and the NBA play-offs. Where would one draw the line? A lot of sitting on the couch is involved, as it turns out, but still, this is all a kind of work for me, isn’t it?

And here’s one good reason to pursue the life of a writer or artiste—not just that the job involves very little of what others call work, but that it becomes easy to obscure the line between work and play. It is very easy to look at the garbageman watching a movie or sitting at the beach and say, you are not working. But if I call myself a writer I can argue that everything I do is part of my job; everything that’s feeding into my brain is going to marinate in there for a while and eventually become part of The Work, even if an unrecognizable one. So what if I often appear to work very little, if at all; can you say for sure that there’s not a thousand-page manuscript in my bottom drawer that’s going to stun the world when I disingenuously instruct my literary executor to burn it, knowing full well that he will not? No, you can’t say for sure, not 100%, and there’s the wiggle room I’m looking for; maybe today’s Wii golf marathon will somehow contribute to tomorrow’s masterpiece.

I could go on, but I may already have said too much. Fortunately, very few people will read this.

4 Responses to “Entertainment is a kind of work”

  1. Delano Says:

    Reminds me of the rowing scene in Ben Hur. Ramming speed Bill, ramming speed!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4O5A2OX8wUE

  2. The Old Man in KS Says:

    What’s a literary executor & how do you get one?

  3. Knox Bronson Says:

    Reminds me of the time I introduced myself to columnist Charles McCabe in a bar in North Beach, which was packed full of singing rugby players from the British Isles. McCabe had been a drinking buddy of my father’s and I respectfully introduced myself, noting both my heritage and the fact that I was a great fan of his writing. McCabe, perched on a barstool amid the revelers, pointed out the rugby players to me. I recognized the blow off, so I said goodnight and made my way down the bar. Two days later, McCabe had a column about how writers were always working, even at the bar, and how often his work was interrupted by interloping clowns and idiots.
    Is there a prize for the 500th comment?

  4. Nguyen Von Funk Says:

    I can say that you do not in fact have a manuscript, stunning master work or otherwise in your bottom drawer; when I was at your house/office last I ransacked said drawers and found only partially leafed through porn and fully consumed scotch bottles.

    Still it’s good work if you can get it.

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