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'The Art of the Wasted Day' explores silence and solitude

This cover image released by Viking shows "The Art of the Wasted day," by Patricia Hampl. (Viking via AP)
April 17, 2018 - 6:35 AM

"The Art of the Wasted Day" (Viking), by Patricia Hampl

Critically praised Patricia Hampl invites readers to take a journey to explore the idea of a life steeped in leisure without schedules.

In "The Art of the Wasted Day," Hampl takes a closer look at people's need to constantly add to the to-do list, as real life passes them by. Will a time of personal tranquility ever be considered equally as important as the daily grind?

In the first chapters, Hampl suggests that the America Dream is built on a life that thrives. The most convincing piece of evidence is written in the Declaration of Independence. The founding fathers placed "the pursuit of happiness" as a foundational mandate of how Americans should approach long-standing goals. The juxtaposition between striving to be happy versus just being happy is what sent Hampl on an adventure to figure out the art of leisure.

Is a solitary life one that stays home? Or does it involve adventure to figure out what makes you happy? Hampl's research into the "to go" or "to stay" preference eventually leads her to French philosopher Michel de Montaigne. This "modern daydreamer" is Hampl's muse.

Hampl weaves personal stories throughout the course of the book as she travels to the homes of individuals who were famously known for seclusion. She visits Bordeaux, Wales, Moravia, and even spends time at a Benedictine monastery. But nothing compares to her time cruising down the Mississippi with her husband.

"The Art of the Wasted Day" is literary art in and of itself. Hampl, known for her work in prose, has the ability to paint a meticulous picture in each essay. Readers will easily conjure images of the gardens, experience the intricate details of architecture and hopefully accept the silence that accompanies a quest to find solitude.

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