An Escapologist’s Diary: Part 66. Idle Mornings, Modern Classics

Now that the short work contract is over, my mornings are back to being the most idle portion of the day.

I’m usually up by 10 because that’s when the postman inevitably knocks. I don’t mind being seen in my tatty old dressing gown but I prefer not to be startled out of bed by a knocking door and to be compos mentis enough to say “good morning” instead of “bleurgh.”

I have some other rules too: that the bed is made and any breakfast (or previous-day) washing up is done by noon. Why? I’m not sure. It just feels like the least I should be capable of.

The rest of the morning is spent watching YouTube videos like these ones or reading light novels or playing records.

I usually glance over the Guardian‘s horrible front page for a gist of how the world looks, but I only ever read one or two stories. It shouldn’t feel like much more than looking out of the window.

After years of not having a proper job and being able to call the shots each morning, I’m still consciously grateful for these bone idle mornings, to live in accordance with my natural rhythms and to not have to catch a bleary-eyed bus to anywhere.


I’d been meaning to describe the shape of my mornings to this Diary for a while and was finally prompted by a moment from the end of The Great Gatsby.

Gatsby’s father shows the narrator a book from Gatsby’s childhood. It’s a copy of Hopalong Cassidy, in which a young Gatsby has jotted his daily rituals and resolutions on the flyleaf beneath the word SCHEDULE:

Rise from bed 6.00 A.M.
Dumbbell exercise and wall-scaling 6.15-6.30
Study electricity, etc 7.15-8.15
Work 8.30-4.30 P.M.
Baseball and sports 4.30-5.00
Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it 5.00-6.00
Study needed inventions 7.00-9.00


No wasting time at Shafters or [a name, indecipherable]
No more smokeing or chewing
Bath every other day
Read one improving book or magazine per week
Save $5.00 [crossed out] $3.00 per week
Be better to parents

I think this is very charming and easily the best part of the novel.

Gatsby, we know, is a “self-made man” who willed himself from rags to riches; this artifact reveals that he was but a child when he decided to break his class destiny.

It’s easy to find this sort of thing a bit square, a bit nerdy, the secretive devotions of a self-policing goody-two-shoes who takes life too seriously. But I think it shows great passion.

I used to be a bit like Young Gatsby, the SCHEDULE being the sort of tool I’d concoct of my own volition so that I wouldn’t end up doing just what I was expected to do. I wanted to take life by the horns! But to be an existential matador, you probably need to develop these dorky techniques in self-discipline.

At almost 40, I’m still like this to an extent but I’ve calmed down a bit. Today, for example, has almost dwindled to nothing, with barely anything to show for it, and I’ve come to see this as an achievement in its own right.


My reading The Great Gatsby this week was part of a hole-patching exercise in my reading experience.

Many people read Gatsby in school but the school I went to preferred us to read self-consciously working-class literature instead of these twentieth-century icons that might have been a useful cultural grounding for later in life. I can’t help thinking that if we’d read The Great Gatsby and Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Slaughterhouse 5 and Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird like so many other children did, we’d have felt less isolated from culture in our teenage years and would generally understood more of what people were talking about.

(The working-class books we read at school were not working-class classics either. We did not read Love on the Dole or Hangover Square or Down and Out in Paris and London or The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists or even anything by Dickens. Instead, we read (yes, I remember everything) some miserable books called Twopence to Cross the Mersey, Across the Barricades, The Driftway, and a supposedly-humorous play called The Rebels of Gas Street. We didn’t enjoy or understand any of these books; we didn’t relate to them at all. This is a shame because I think they were chosen to be relatable, which shows how our teachers thought of us. Seriously, why not give us Day of the Triffids or Treasure Island or something kids might actually get something out of?)

Now, embarrassingly late, I’m reading these basic modern classics like a dufus.

The Great Gatsby looked good to begin with but I found it unfocussed and ultimately not about very much. The first of three acts is about the mystery of this unknowable man (a “Mr. Nobody from Nowhere”), the second (and best) is about the history of a great love triangle, and the third is about a random accident that results in the end of Gatsby’s life. The end doesn’t feel (to me) like a well-planned tragedy or an irony or anything. It just feels like F Scott ran out of time or met his wordcount or something. Maybe I’m being unfair?

To Kill a Mockingbird is a lovely book though. I was surprised by how little of it is about the famous trial. I was also surprised by how joyfully messy and unconventional the structure is; it’s not an obvious classic at all, though I really enjoyed it and it’s probably perfect for kids. It’s only right that Atticus Finch is seen as one of the great memorable characters and I find myself vowing, Gatsby-like, to be more like Atticus Finch in my own life and less like Saul Goodman.

Be kind and give more of yourself to Good.
No more cutting corners!

Read the classics already? Try a classic in the making and read The Good Life for Wage Slaves by Robert Wringham. The annual fee for hosting this website is due so any extra support would be most welcome. Ta!


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

One Response to “An Escapologist’s Diary: Part 66. Idle Mornings, Modern Classics”

  1. Suzuki says:

    “After years of not having a proper job and being able to call the shots each morning, I’m still consciously grateful for these bone idle mornings, to live in accordance with my natural rhythms and to not have to catch a bleary-eyed bus to anywhere.“ Can’t agree more!

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