Coming Up For Air

Coming Up For Air is a wise and beautiful book central to the Escapologist’s library. I read the novel three years ago and today happened upon some quotations from it in my old notebook. Some are pure and giddy fun while others are rather depressing, but they’re all life-affirming in their way.

“There’s something that’s gone out of us. […] It’s a kind of vital juice that we’ve squirted away until there’s nothing left. All this rushing to and fro! Everlasting scramble for a bit of cash. Everlasting din of buses, bombs, radios, telephone bells. Nerves worn all to bits, empty places in the bones where the marrow ought to be.”

“Isn’t it queer how we go through life, always thinking that the things we want to do are the things that can’t be done? It seemed to me a kind of dope-dream, like the ones you have of sleeping with film stars or of winning the heavyweight championship. And yet it wasn’t in the least impossible, it wasn’t even improbable.”

Penguin 6 1042

“…in this life we lead – I don’t mean human life in general, I mean life in this particular age and this particular country – we don’t do the things we want to do. It isn’t because we’re always working. […] It’s because there’s some devil in us that drives us to and fro on everlasting idiocies. There’s time for everything except the things worth doing.”

“When I look back I realise that my active life, if I ever had one, ended when I was sixteen. Everything that really matters to me had happened before that date. […] After [taking a job selling insurance] – well, they say that happy people have no histories, and neither do the blokes who work in insurance offices. From that day forward there was nothing in my life you could properly describe as an event.”


“There’s a chap who thinks he’s going to escape! There’s a chap who says he won’t be stream-lined! He’s going back to Lower Binfield! After him! Stop him!”

Buy the new Issue Ten in print or PDF today.
Buy the complete back catalogue of New Escapologist with a 10% discount.
Or buy the complete back catalogue on PDF, with £1 off the price each issue.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

One Response to “Coming Up For Air”

  1. Spoonman says:

    Those are beautiful photographs!

    “There’s a chap who thinks he’s going to escape! There’s a chap who says he won’t be stream-lined! He’s going back to Lower Binfield! After him! Stop him!”

    It’s kind scary how the grind was pretty much the same back then as it is now. Actually, I think it’s gotten worse. A lot of companies in the US are starting to metabolise parts of themselves in order to keep costs down. I could write a big rant about this but I’d be preaching to the choir.

Leave a Reply

Latest issues and offers


Issues One to Seven

A bundle of our first seven issues. Featuring minimalism, Houdini, Leo Babauta, Bohemianism, Alain de Botton, Sartre, and Tom Hodgkinson. 567 pages. £35.


Issues Eight to Thirteen

A bundle of our last six issues. Featuring Luke Rhinehart, Flaubert, Mr Money Mustache, part-time work, Will Self, home life, Richard Herring, and E. F. Schumacher. 593 pages. £30.

Issue Thirteen

Our final issue. Featuring an interview with celebrity mortician Caitlin Doughty; Matt Caulfield on zen fool Ryokan; and Reggie C. King on David Bowie and Sun Ra. 122 pages. £7.

Escape Everything!

A hardback guide to scarpering. Essential reading for wage slaves and slugabeds alike. Published by Unbound and Penguin. 230 pages. £12.