“A broad margin of leisure is as beautiful in a man’s life as in a book. Haste makes waste, no less in life than in housekeeping…We live too fast and coarsely, just as we eat too fast, and do not know the true savour of our food”
In theory Christian McEwan and I should be soul-mates. She’s written a book called “World Enough and Time”, which is about slowing down and she has the crossword addict’s love of words. She delights in finding “significant” anagrams, such as Listen/Silent, Begin/Being and Busy/Buys. She derives enormous pleasure in a game where you take away the first letter of a word to form a new word, such as making laughter from slaughter; here from where; earth from hearth and yes from eyes.
She’s a writer, a teacher and a poet, and years of research have produced a cornucopia of literary and poetic allusions to the Slow Life. There’s delight on every page. In fact this would be a perfect read were it not for her intensely irritating habit of equating Slow with a rejection of the modern world. She repeatedly cites the example of a monk (either Christian or Buddhist) as her ideal (strangely, never nuns, but perhaps she’s heard what it’s like to be taught by one) because of their ability to free themselves from the material world and to spend the day in contemplation and prayer. To my mind such a life is pointless, fatuous and parasitical, more to be despised than admired. A person who devotes their life to contemplation and prayer is deliberately choosing not to make the most of whatever talents they possess. It’s one thing to ask people to slow down, quite another to suggest that they drop out altogether.
The picture on the front cover of “World Enough and Time” shows a Scottish landscape which has been photo-shopped onto a picture of the author’s unfeasibly tidy desk. The Scottish scene has been chosen as this is where she was brought up, although she has lived for most of her life in the States. She’s thoroughly American now and this book would be much better if only she had retained more of the Presbyterian Scottishness of her youth.