Letter to the Editor: Chilling Stuff

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Reader C writes:

Dear Robert

Thanks for the recommendation of The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walters, which I got from the library. Chilling stuff, especially this sentence:

We had some normal debt: normal credit cards, normal furniture layaways, normal car payments, some uncovered medical bills, Teddy’s normal braces and Franklin’s normal speech therapy…

Have you seen the new Wim Wenders film Perfect Days? It’s about a solitary, but not lonely, Japanese man who lives a simple life in Tokyo. It’s beautifully made and very well acted. It has some pro-work tropes (romanticising repetitive work and the dignity of a job done well) but I think its main message is Escapological.

He works in order to pursue his loves of reading second-hand books, listening to cassettes, and taking photos of trees. He only displays anger when his boss asks him to work a double shift, and he’s clearly inspiring his wealthy niece to escape from the capitalist rat race.

Doing all of this in the shadow of the hyperconsumerism of Tokyo is particularly powerful. He’s certainly a more inspiring hero than Jess Walters’ Matt.

Yours in glorious slowness,


Hello C.

Yes indeed! Perfect Days is a wonderful film and I second your recommendation of it for the benefit of our readers.

In fact, I have reviewed the film along with a similarly-but-differently Escapological new film called The Delinquents in the forthcoming Issue 16.

Letter to the Editor: Barbados

Thank you, Reader B, for a lovely handwritten letter.

Here follows a handwritten list of Escapological book recommendations from, of all the places I could hope to find a readership, Barbados.

Read the rest of this entry »

Letter to the Editor: A Pro-Rest Episode

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Reader G writes:

Dear Rob,

The world of work is trying to colonise our every waking moment, so it’s heartening to learn of ever more people (like yourself and those you write about) who are fighting back by running for the exit.

Someone once told me he admired me for jumping ship each time a job wasn’t for me, while he was too worried to leave his. I hadn’t realised how much of an Escapologist I was!

And it’s not just our waking moments they want. This week, BBC Sounds has a podcast about sleep. Capitalism is trying to monetise our sleep by selling us masks, calming apps and the rest of it.

But why do we need these things? What’s causing the difficulties of falling asleep? It’s the prospect of having to get up the next morning and earn some pennies to pay for the apps and masks!

Apparently in the mid 2000s some entrepreneur tried to encourage people to learn to lucid dream so that they could keep working on their PowerPoint presentations in their sleep! There really is no frontier past which capitalism/work will not tread. Luckily the podcast guests called this out too. It was a very pro-rest episode.


Hi G. That podcast was very interesting and informative, so thank you for drawing our attention to it. Imagine using your sleep to work, unremunerated, on PowerPoint presentations. That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.

Awkwardly enough, I just ordered my first “soft headphones” designed for sleeping in. They were only a fiver from Vinted, so I shouldn’t have to give too many bus station hand jobs to make back my investment.

Personally, I’m not looking for commercial assistance with sleep: I just like to go to bed early to listen to podcasts sometimes. It’s pleasant. Unfortunately, I often fall asleep after ten minutes and the corded headphones (I have a bundle of them, stolen from airplanes in part so that imprisoned slaves don’t have to clean my ear wax out of them) end up wrapped around my neck. No more! I take the point though: sleep paraphernalia is another nonsense industry.

I was thinking recently how lucky I am to have never failed to fall asleep at night. Even brutally restless or party nights end with me conking at 5am. I stayed in a terrible hostel in Utrecht recently (see New Escapologist 15) where I was awake all night. Even then, I slept at 6am on the first train out of town.

Let’s keep work out of sleep, folks. As previously related in Escape Everything!, I once dreamed about stacking shopping baskets at my old retail job. What a rip off. This week I dreamed about reading beautifully-designed 1970s children’s encyclopaedias with my wife and looking at midcentury furniture in a department store with my friend Wentworth. Genuinely good dreams, those. The key, of course, is to work as little as possible in waking hours so that your unconscious mind doesn’t need to process the trauma at night.

Letters to the Editor: Why No Photographs?

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Reader X writes:

Hey Robert,

Finished slowly reading Issue 15 because I wanted to suck the marrow out of the bones of Experiments in Living. Delightful!

But… why no photographs? I was so hoping to see what Henry’s humble home looked like, although admittedly you did a most excellent job in describing it. Is adding photos just prohibitively expensive or just not the aesthetic you want to pursue?

Just starting a reread. Always entertaining to hear your voice on the page. Don’t want to unduly add to your anxiety but already looking forward to the next issue…


Hello X,

Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had a reflective read of both issues last night and I must admit to being very pleased with it all. I’m also happy that people are buying it: it feels like a magazine written just for me, so it’s validating that others are interested (even enthusiastic!) too. I feel a strong sense of connection with you and the other readers. It’s wonderful. I’m very grateful for it.

It’s funny you should mention photographs as I’ve been thinking of using photography in the magazine for the first time. Up to now, I’ve never used it in New Escapologist. As you rightly suspect, it’s not the aesthetic I want. However! This aesthetic (non-digital, perhaps a little bit Victorian) was informed by pragmatism some 16 years ago: photographs didn’t reproduce particularly well with the printing technology I used. We’ve moved on since then and we could theoretically print photographs if we wanted to.

Not photographing Henry’s place was a deliberate decision though. It would have compromised his privacy. I’m slightly amazed that he allows me to publish details about his life at all. I didn’t want to use technology (my iPhone camera) in his presence, nor would I want those pictures to find their way onto the Internet, on which he has robustly turned his back. So even if photography was technically and aesthetically possible, I would never have published photographs of Henry’s house.

Two possibilities exist for breaking my no photography rule: one is my friend Alan who takes remarkable documentary photographs (usually on film) and with whom I already collaborate a little. Another is a photo album I inherited from my friend Kat: it depicts the louche alternative life of a theatrical couple in the 1950s. I want to research the photos a little and maybe write about them. If I do this for New Escapologist (as an example of successful outsider life), it would be a shame not to reproduce some of the photos. So maybe you’ll get photographs soon! I’m mulling it all over.

Oh! You might also have noticed that the inside covers of the print edition can use colour ink now. This is available to us at no additional cost so I like the idea of using that. In Issue 15 (exclusive to the print version), the inside back cover shows the attractive modernist artwork from the cover of Escape, Escapism and Escapology, one of the books we reviewed. I decided not to label as such (though credit to the artist and the owner of the painting can be found in the masthead) to allow it to pique people’s curiosity.



If other readers have thoughts concerning our aesthetic and the use of photographs, please comment on this post or send me an email. Print editions of Issue 14 and 15 remain available to purchase.

Letter to the Editor: At the Other End of the Age Scale

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Reader O writes:

Dear Robert,

At the other end of the age scale to you, at 76 I have discovered liberation!

I am a wood turner but thanks to long covid can no longer make the huge pieces I so enjoyed creating.

My professional lathe and massive chunks of wood have been looking at me balefully for the last three and a half years, so I have given them all away to a father and son who seem absolutely thrilled. In return they are setting me up with an excellent dinky lathe and cleaned out a bit of my workshop. I have also given away all my exhibition stands and plate racks to a very grateful recipient. I feel completely liberated, especially as everything has found a good home!

I’ve attached an image of some of my work.


Wringham Wresponds:

I was sad to hear that your crafting practice has come to an end, but it certainly sounds liberating in many good ways and your generosity in passing the flame to another generation is lovely to hear about.

Congratulations on a working life well spent and it’s good to know that you can still tinker and enjoy creative satisfaction on a smaller scale.


Be crafty, be free. New Escapologist Issue 14 is available in print and digital formats now.

Letter to the Editor: The Motion of the Yellowish Light

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Reader G writes:

Dear Robert,

I was thinking about your fondness for what you call “epiphanies,” that moment you said when one foot is on the train and the other foot is on the platform. I remember mine and you’re welcome to it.

I was photocopying something in the office and for some reason it had to be done with the lid open. The light that goes back and forth was gradually blinding me in a very particular way. I could still see the motion of the yellowish light when I closed my eyes.

The whole thing lulled me into a hypnotic state, at which point I knew something was wrong. I forced myself to snap out of it, not just for the sake of this moment but forever. I carried my notice around in my pocket for a few weeks and finally signed it, dated it, and handed it to my boss’s PA. I was free.


New Escapologist Issue 14 is available now from our online shop.

Letter to the Editor: Backwards, Away From the Sunlight

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Reader L writes:

I just read the magCulture interview. Why do you put so many of your books in your bookshelves spine-in? Are those the ones you’ve read and the spine-out group is fresh reading fodder?


Hi L. Yes, that’s correct. But it’s only temporary. I saw a YouTuber doing it and I thought it would be cool to get the live visualisation of read versus unread. I’ll put it back to normal soon though because it’s hardly practical for finding a specific book.

The same YouTuber described it as “playing with my library.” I thought, “hmm, I never play with my library. Maybe I’ll play with my library.”

It’s also fun to see the different colours of book paper: some of them aged and others new, some of them bright white and others burnt umber or practically orange.

The room is very sunny so I’m always aware that the spines of my books are becoming gradually bleached. Some yellow spines like that of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, which I’ve owned for 20 years, is as good as white now. This gradual bleaching is always on my mind like how Foster, a librarian in Richard Brautigan’s The Abortion is troubled by his surplus collection being housed in a drippy cave. So it’s nice to have a break from that worry while they’re all turned backwards, away from the sunlight.

I realise this has very little do with Escapology. Unless of course… it does?

Feeling bookish now? How about buying one?

Letter to the Editor: Roko’s Basilisk

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Hi Robert,

We are really pleased New Escapologist is returning to print – Can’t wait 🙂

Just a quick question about AI and your closing comment in response to the algorithmic poetry examples. You said: “We’re doomed. I for one welcome our new sonnet-writing computer overlords.”

Was this a reference to Roko’s Basilisk?

I read that some Silicon Valley libertarians and “crypto bros” are well into this theory.

Thank you for all your articles and books.

We are big time Robert Wringham fans in our house!

Warm Regards,



Hello N,

What an excellent question! Alas, my attempt at a cultural reference was even lower brow than that:

Thanks for the nice things you said. Not much longer to wait for some ways to subscribe or buy the first issue. In fact, it’s available now.


Letter to the Editor: Tears Dripping Into My Sandwich

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Hello Robert,

I always open your newsletters with a mix of hope and shame. I remember my second day of full-time employment, sitting alone in a subway, tears dripping into my sandwich, an escape plan forming in my mind.

Fifteen years later I remain imprisoned by my cowardice and lack of imagination. We are all born straight-backed and defiant, but the world has twisted my body and broken my will. You shared a post of mine in the newsletter once, when I was still on Twitter, but I am a fraud! Unworthy!


Reader E


Oh no! I don’t want anyone to feel like that when they’re reading our newsletter.

Escape from full-time employment is a tough nut to crack. That’s why New Escapologist exists really. Escape plans are hard to formulate, so we have this periodical to share them and to lament their failure when failures happen.

There’s zero shame in not escaping. Most people don’t escape. We show in our pages that escape is possible, but it’s by no means certain nor even merely probable. Examples of successful escape aren’t there to taunt you but to give hope that maybe, just maybe, you can follow suit.

To escape, you might have to look poverty in the whites of its eyes and certainly to face down the idea of failure. You need to build failure into the plan. What would happen if you failed? What would be the worst case scenario? Could you face it?

Besides, many people who read our pages are perfectly happy in their jobs, have found ways to be content inside the box, or are working very slowly towards an escape.

Fifteen years isn’t such a long time really. Your job, for all that might suck about it, will have provided material comfort in that time. You’ll have something to show for it. And, if you really want to escape, you eventually will. Even if it’s just at the natural point of retirement into a state pension. In that way, escape is inevitable really. You just have to stay alive and be patient.

To join the defiant ranks of successful, budding and failed Escapologists, back the New Escapologist Kickstarter today.

Letters to the Editor: Backyard Chickens Come Home to Roost

You know Hilaire Belloc, don’t you? He wrote Cautionary Tales for Children in which naughty children are joyously dispatched by fire, skewering, and devourment by lions.

But he also wrote The Servile State, a 1912 critique of Big Business and its relationship with the State. A problem with this relationship, Belloc writes, is that it builds a nation of grudging, demoralised Wage Slaves instead of engaged, independent-minded craftspeople. He was right, obviously.

And the solution he proposes for systemically ending Wage Slavery is… private property ownership.

I’m yet to decide if that’s an excitingly unconventional position or a drearily conventional one. Every Muggle in Britain today seeks to own property, but those who pursue it most fervently (those who become landlords for example) don’t generally want to end Wage Slavery. So. I’m interested.

“If we do not restore the Institution of Property,” he writes at the very top, “we cannot escape restoring the Institution of Slavery; there is no third course.”

Perhaps he’s saying that, once rent is out of the picture, a person approaches financial independence and can get on with something meaningful instead of toiling full-time. I wonder if Belloc (much like Keynes, who predicted we’d all be on a 15-hour work week by now) did not foresee the delinquent appetites of humans under capitalism. Plenty of people who pay off their mortgage but continue to toil, usually with some other thing in the balance — like a pension or even another mortgage for a bigger or second house.

I’ll say more about Belloc’s argument another time when I’ve come to firmer grips with it. Reader’s voice: what a cop out! It reminds me, however, that we’ve not said anything about the “renting versus owning” issue for a while.


As many of you know, my partner and I recently bought our first apartment after decades of renting. We enjoyed renting and it was our preference: if you see your landlord not as a boss or superegoic parent figure but as a skivvy paid to keep you housed and to repair your washing machine when it breaks, it becomes a most amenable relationship.

Several rent hikes (or pay rises for our skiv), alas, made our continued tenancy unaffordable. Our rent doubled over six years.

The fun of renting is to aristocratically dismiss your worries about the future, but the cost expanded so exorbitantly that we found ourselves worried not just about the future but about the present. This doesn’t mean “ownership wins.” It means the UK rental situation is fucked up beyond measure.

When we bought the flat two years ago, I grumbled about it in the newsletter and got some email responses on the subject. So let’s run a themed edition of Letters to the Editor.

To send a letter to the editor, simply write in. You’ll get a reply and we’ll anonymise any blogged version.


Friend Ian’s email was amusingly useless:

Hi Rob,

Hope this finds you well. As a communist homeowner I have strong and conflicted views on this, which I meant to share with you following your first email about it, but, obviously, I never got round to it.

[I also wanted] to let you know that I might have clicked on the grieving face emoji in response to how I feel about your Kickstarter campaign. Rest assured this was in error: I intended to click on the happy face, but I’m in a bit of a vaccine fever at the moment, so not at my maximum competence.



PS: ‘grieving face emoji’ was an autocorrect typo; I meant to type ‘frowning face emoji’.

Ah, the vaccine. Heady days. Ian doesn’t go into detail about his conflicted feelings as a communist homeowner, but I imagine they are something like “property is theft but, since we’re economically bullied into committing theft, what are you going to do?”

Reader X wrote:

You may need to clarify – renting for 1000 quid vs. buying for 100 apiece?? Are house prices in Scotland that reasonable?! If so, sign me right up. I’ll draw on my escape fund and we can set up a nice escapological homestead littered with tinkering shops and garden space.

After the rent hikes, our old place was nearing £1,000 a month to rent. It was the cheapest flat on a fairly posh street where rental prices are now around £1,200. Our current mortgage repayments by comparison are £180 a month each (£360 total). I don’t know how typical this is: we wrestled a great deal out of the bastards at the bank. It’s a fixed-rate mortgage too, so we have not yet been hit by the inflation apocalypse.

Property prices in our city are more reasonable than in London though. All I can say is: don’t live in capital cities. Move north! I know the bright lights are exciting but (in my opinion) it’s better to live cheaply in a “workshop city” like Glasgow or Manchester or Liverpool where culture is produced rather than merely sold. To oligarchs.

Reader Q wrote:

As I start to get a bit older I am more in favour of buying. One can quarrel in the mind over the economics until your backyard chickens come to roost. But, you most likely can’t have backyard chickens when you’re a renter.

As renters, our equivalent of a backyard was a spare room. Readers of The Good Life for Wage Slaves will know the importance I place on having ample space for creative work and being able to accommodate friends. We could not afford to buy a place with a spare room though. We sacrifices the spare room to the reduced cost. And we still don’t have a garden. Not that we particularly want one.

and continued:

My current rented abode is filled with the half-finished intentions and tastes of another couple looking to make a few bucks after upgrading their digs. Sometimes I get a weird eerie feeling like I’m living in someone else’s past with their poor choice of cheap plastic jellyfish chandelier and thick purple wallpaper. But that’s the price of freedom, baby.

Now this I relate to. Our rental was supposedly “unfurnished” but it still came with the landlord’s filthy old roller blinds, lighting fixtures, and tasteless decorative curly things on the ends of the curtain rails. We unscrewed everything on Day One, stashing them away in the flat’s least-useful cupboard. For all we know, the former tenants did the same and these things go up and come down again with every tenant. See also the fireplace and the hole.


For more on “rent versus ownership” and other thoughts about homelife, please buy The Good Life for Wage Slaves to help pay my mortgage.

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