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Houdini! The handcuff king! He freed himself from jail cells, straitjackets, packing crates and — on a particularly beguiling evening — the innards of a dead whale. His sensational act struck a chord and made him famous throughout the Western world, not just for the inherent feat of escape but because of what it represented: liberation from the trap of the burgeoning consumer economy of the 1900s.
A century later and we’re still in the trap. 80% of us hate our jobs yet we reluctantly spend 87,000 hours at work before dying. Some of us even die at work. We also spend 5,000 hours sitting in trains and buses and traffic jams, getting to and from work, and an untold number of hours preparing for, worrying about, and recovering from work. Despite all this toil, most of us are in debt because we’re so keen to reclaim our dignity by buying big homes and then filling them with stuff.
The trap is stronger than ever before but few have the Escapology to deal with it. Many latter-day Houdinis have drawn attention to the trap but few have done anything about it. Since 2007, through the pages of his small press magazine New Escapologist, Robert Wringham has been studiously examining the mechanisms of the trap, exploring the alternatives to it, and collecting stories of escape attempts. Finally in Escape Everything! he shows how we might break free.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we offer you escape. Escape from work, escape from consumerism, escape from loneliness and despair. This book shows once and for all that escape is possible for those who want out.
“Welcome aboard,” said the friendly young recruitment officer. He theatrically opened a door to reveal the bank of warmly humming computers for which I was now responsible, as if to say “all of this is yours”.
But I didn’t want it to be mine. I don’t care about computers, warmly humming or otherwise. I wanted to be a bohemian writer of unmarketable funnies like Myles na gCopaleen, or an outsider comedian like Simon Munnery, or a transvestite potter like Grayson Perry.
Puerile perhaps. Dreamy certainly. But Jesus Christ, look at the alternatives. Network Administrator. Outreach Officer. Teaching Assistant. Forever? With my remarkable mind? With two science degrees and a half-decent singing voice? It was too hideous to contemplate. I didn’t want to eat machine-vended sandwiches for lunch in the staff canteen of some concrete carbuncle: I wanted a rider in my dressing room, overflowing with exotic fruits and the undies of groupies.
I’m not an employee by nature. Nobody is.
On the other hand, if I was unable to cover the rent this month I’d be out on my arse. Hence this job. I was trapped. Trapped! Potentially for the next forty years, which was, so far as I was concerned, forever. The jail sentence for bank robbery is nowhere near that long. I know because I checked.
Grayson Perry and the others couldn’t help me now. Of all my heroes, only Houdini could get out of this one.Read more...
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