An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 59: 2019 Review

The end is nigh! The end of the year, that is. Which means it’s time to file an annual report for my imaginary shareholders.

Anxious political horizon-scanning aside, my 2019 was dominated by Operation Breadhead. As of a few weeks ago, the entire business is complete. Here’s what my motivational pie chart looks like now:

It looks like the flag of a parallel universe Japan. Job Done.

In January, I directed a one-person comedy show for Gabriel Featherstone. This involved some enjoyable workshopping and a final show at the Glasgow Comedy Fest.

The year through, I worked on a friend’s gargantuan travel-writing project. There’s another year of work in this, so I’ll refrain from going into detail until it’s done. It has involved a huge amount of typing, research and editing. It’s been fun and will eventually result in a War and Peace-sized art object book.

For the Idler, we published five more editions of my Escape column (my favourite being about the dangerous art of the home haircut) and a lengthy feature about the FIRE movement. Writing the latter was nostalgic for me as I was lead to remember my Montreal days of tinkering with financial science and spending time with Jacob (of ERE) and Mr. Money Mustache.

For HiLobrow, I wrote a single item in the form of a tribute to Viz.

2019 saw the completion of my book manuscript, The Good Life for Wage Slaves. I don’t yet have a UK or North American release date, but the German edition will be out on 21 April, 2020. Here’s where to go if you read German and you’d like to pre-order. (The reason for this strange release schedule is that Escape Everything! did better in the Germanic countries than it did in the English-speaking ones. Thank you, Europe. x)

My next book, which I began this year and will complete in 2020, is a travel book and I’m enjoying the writing process immensely. I don’t feel like going into detail yet. My project code for it is CRY. It will be funny and scatty.

In the summer, I set up a monthly New Escapologist newsletter. It’s a way to circulate the content of this blog more widely and to recapture a sense of “putting something together” as in the magazine days rather than simply rolling out blog content on an unpredictable schedule. People don’t follow blogs in the way they used to, RSS being dropped by Google and all, and I don’t like social media so this is a way of reaching people in a long-form, friendly, creative way. I like it. More in 2020. Please join the newsletter here.

Between June and September, I experimented with a daily diary. The entries were usually short, the idea being to document my days without fussing over it too much and also to replace Twitter as a form of online interaction. It didn’t really work, but it was fun to try. If you’d like to read them (weirdo), you can start at the first entry and navigate forward using the links beneath the (largely unused) comments thread.

The diary was followed by one more post for my lightly-revamped-this-year website. It’s The Sex Life of H. G. Wells.

I wrote three subscription essays to kick off a second season of those. Subjects included social media, ends and means, and the point of work. To receive the essays as they come out and to read the existing contents of the vault, do join us on Patreon.

In June, some Korean copies of Escape Everything! arrived in the post. These are great! Here are my thoughts about the book.

I did some non-literary work at the small botanical library I mentioned in last year’s roundup. This project is now complete and the library has a nice catalogue of its 2,500-volume collection. When this wound up, I took one last stab at conventional employment in which I lasted three weeks and vowed never to do anything so stupid again. I didn’t write about this brush with employment here at the blog, but I touched on it in November’s newsletter and may yet write a Patreon essay based on some thoughts it prompted about the nature of work.

For the first time in about twelve years, I left the UK not once this year. I went for depth over breadth this year, preferring to work on my projects and operations (and to kick back with books, spend time with friends) than go sliding about on the surface of the Earth. I’ve also been concerned, along with everyone else hopefully, about the ecological impact of travel so I’ve been reining it in on that front too, though I know already that 2020 will see some travel escapades.

Still, in April I popped down to Liverpool to sell Escape Everything! at an Anarchist Bookfair. In May, Landis visited from Chicago and we looked like this. In August, I went to Buckinghamshire to give my sister away at her wedding. In October, I was in London for meetings and to join the Idler contingent of an Extinction Rebellion campaign.

God, there was loads more stuff too. We hosted a Halloween party at our flat. We went to a tonne of art shows, music festivals, museums, book launches. A good year for cultural gluttony. I walked to Loch Lomond three times and was chased out of a field by a frisky cow. We visited some Tiny Homes and thereafter became a bit obsessed. My partner Samara put art shows together at Tramway. My friend Ian’s novel, Sloot, came out. And just as the year was ending, we lost Alasdair Gray.

As part of going deep instead of wide, I read these books:

H. G. Wells – The History of Mr Polly
David Graeber – Bullshit Jobs: a theory
Margareta Magnusson – The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning
Tom Hodgkinson – The Idle Parent
H. G. Wells – Kipps
John Berger and Jean Mohr – A Fortunate Man
Dan Lyons – Lab Rats
Sathnam Sanghera – The Boy with the Topknot
Haruki Murakami – Killing Commendatore
Dervla Murphy – Full Tilt
E. H. Gombrich – A Little History of the World
Italo Calvino – Mr. Palomar
Jon Ronson – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
Werner Herzog – Walking in Ice
Ben Aranovich – Lies Sleeping*
Jaron Lanier – Ten Arguments
Simon Crump – My Elvis Blackout
Jarett Kobek – Only Americans Burn in Hell
David Sedaris – Theft by Finding
Dorthe Nors – Mirror, Shoulder, Signal
Sarah Manguso – Ongoingness
Will Ferguson – Hokkaido Highway Blues
JD Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye†
Katie Skelly – My Pretty Vampire
Terry Pratchett – Sourcery*†
Mark Boyle – The Way Home
Harlan Ellison – The Harlan Ellison Hornbook
B.S. Johnson – Trawl
Mark Gatiss – James Whale: A Biography
Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell – Art Matters
Bevis Hillier – Art Deco
Catrina Davies – Homesick
Andy Weir – The Martian
Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett – The Long Earth
Leonora Carrington – The Hearing Trumpet
Julian Barnes – The Noise of Time
Jean Cocteau – Les Enfants Terribles

The following books were read in substantial part but decadently abandoned:

Alexandra Wolfe – Valley of the Gods
Dawn MacLeod – Oasis of the North
Terry Gilliam – Gilliamesque
Benjamin Rosenbaum – The Ant King
H. G. & G. P. Wells – H. G. Wells in Love

Oh! And after much consideration and consultation, we finally went against our minimalist tendencies by acquiring a record player. It is a thing of beauty, especially the glistening valve amp recommended by a New Escapologist reader. No regrets yet.

I end the year a tad nervy of the bumpy political times ahead, but liberated in my Escapological decision to ignore it completely, at least until there’s a leather-gloved knock at the door.

I’m off to play a record…

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

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