Monday, August 13, 2012

Five of the best books on boredom

Peter Toohey is a professor in the Department of Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Calgary. His books include Melancholy, Love and Time: Boundaries of the Self in Ancient Literature and Boredom: A Lively History.

One of his five best books on boredom, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The Untouchable
by John Banville (1997)

In this ravishing novel, the predatory, frosty and utterly engaging lead character, Victor Maskell, recounts how, as a young man at Cambridge in the 1930s, he sought an extreme cure for boredom: becoming a Soviet agent. The novel is based on the infamous Cambridge spy ring—in particular, on the life of Anthony Blunt, whose treachery, like Maskell's in the story, was not revealed until old age, when he was working as an art expert for the queen. Maskell divulges more or less grandiose motives for his betrayal through the course of the novel. But the most fundamental reason is simple. Maskell recalls his reply to someone who asked him why he would betray his country, " 'I said. 'Oh, cowboys and Indians, my dear; cowboys and Indians.' The need for amusement, the fear of boredom: was the whole thing much more than that, really, despite all the grand theorising?"
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Peter Toohey's Boredom: A Lively History.

The Untouchable is one of Foyles's top ten contemporary Irish novels.

Also see: Top 10 books about boredom.

--Marshal Zeringue