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


Issue 14

Our latest issue. Featuring interviews with Caitlin Doughty and the Iceman, with columns by McKinley Valentine, David Cain, Tom Hodgkinson, and Jacob Lund Fisker. 88 pages. £9.


Two-issue Subscription

Get the current and next issue of New Escapologist. 176 pages. £16.

Four-issue Subscription

Get the current and next three issues of New Escapologist. 352 pages. £36.

PDF Archive

Issues 1-13 in PDF format. Over a thousand digital pages to preserve our 2007-2017 archive. 1,160 pages. £25.