It’s about time I told you — the readers of New Escapologist — about my novel(s).
It wasn’t supposed to be “an Escapological novel” but it sort-of is. It’s certainly about the indignities of wage labour.
I was keen to avoid this being about office life, so our hero’s job ended up being on trains. He cleans seat-back trays and collects rubbish and unblocks toilets on long-distance trains from Edinburgh to London. He doesn’t live in either of those cities though, so his commute to work also involves trains and, as such, he spends a sizable part of his life on them. He’s not even sure sometimes if he’s working or commuting (a feeling familiar to many since even the longest commute is not typically remunerated: vast swathes of human life being spent in lurching transit is just a cost of doing business).
A colleague eventually tells our man that his problems might stem from his odour problem! He’s smelly, in large part because of his exertions. And so he embarks on a voyage of self-improvement (“Getting Better” he calls it), which starts with luxurious soaks in the tub. It’s not just about being smelly or unsmelly: it’s about taking care of yourself more generally, slowing down, taking the time to think.
Our man’s problem isn’t really his smelliness at all in fact. He’s the victim of a hundred years of decision-making for which he wasn’t present. Choices made in the Industrial Revolution dictate how he must spend his days now. He doesn’t want to believe in Fatalism but the more he mulls over his problems, the better he comes to understand that his place in history is as much to blame for his predicament as anything he’s done wrong himself.
This is the Escapological crux of it all. I didn’t know I was writing Escapology but I was. Or at least I was writing about the problem for which Escapology is a personal solution.
It seems that the indignity and unfairness of work is one of my obsessions and I wonder now if it will make an appearance in any future novels I write too.