Q & A

A Q&A with Patricia Hampl, author of THE ART OF THE WASTED DAY
 (Viking / 9780525429647 / 4/17/18 / $26.00)

  1. You talk about the “particular battle between striving and serenity” being distinctly American. How do you think this notion of pursuit has shaped us? Where should the line between striving and serenity be drawn?
  2. Where did you discover the exemplars of leisure that you focus on in the book? What inspired to you travel to their homes?
  3. What drew you to Montaigne’s philosophy, specifically?
  4. What value do you see in the personal essay? What purpose has the form served for you throughout your life?
  5. You touch on the trope of “the woman who dines alone” as having a “postmodern valor” that you struggle to claim. Can you expand on that idea?
  6. If to-do lists are an attempt to organize and complete menial tasks so that we can live our Real Lives, what do we do when they feel unending and how do we get to our Real Lives? Additionally, how can we avoid “postmodern to-do” lists (meditate, yoga, etc.)?
  7. Where does the impulse to write come from? Many writers, specifically memoirists, talk about writing feeling gratuitous. If you’ve experienced this feeling, how do you push through to keep writing?
  8. You respond to Montaigne’s statement, “it is an absolute perfection and virtually divine to know how to enjoy our being rightfully” by saying that “there’s a touch of envy…to be so perfect in your being. To enjoy rightfully.” Do you think there are any specific ways that we can achieve contentment in simply being, as opposed to doing?
  9. Why do you feel that solitude is the heart of writing?
The Art of the Wasted Day