Student of Escapology
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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.
Robert Wringham is a writer and performer who lives in Glasgow and Montreal. He’s the editor of New Escapologist, a small-press magazine for working stiffs with escape on the brain. The magazine, now in its tenth issue, has seen contributions from Alain de Botton, Richard Herring, Ewan Morrison, Tom Hodgkinson, Leo Babauta, Luke Rhinehart and other prominent citizens in support of the good life.
Wringham’s first book, You Are Nothing, was published in 2012 by Go Faster Stripe and is a history of Dadaesque comedy troupe Cluub Zarathustra featuring Stewart Lee, Roger Mann and Simon Munnery. As a performer he does stand-up comedy, spoken word and performance art in places like the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Mainline Theatre in Montreal, at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Montreal Infringement Festival, and the Glasgow CCA. As a humourist and essayist, he’s written for the Idler, Playboy, HiLoBrow, the British Comedy Guide, Splitsider and a hundred other magazines and websites. As a humourist he writes about the minutiae of modern life, and as an “Escapologist” he writes about the larger mechanisms of the same modern life. A devastating wealth of his ridiculous stuff can be found at wringham.co.uk.
Praise for Robert Wringham
"Excellent" Stewart Lee
"Superb" The Telegraph
Praise for New Escapologist
“Entertaining and highly literate reading, even if you’re relatively content with wage slavery.” - Moneysense
“Excellent publications which deserve a wide readership.” - Tom Hodgkinson, editor of the Idler and author of How to be Free
“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.
- 15th December 2016 Houdini's Christmas Card
Seasons Greetings, fellow Escapologists.
Unbound have kindly granted a 20% discount on Escape Everything! and I'd like to recommend it for Christmas stockings the world over. It's a nice-looking hardback with a colorful, Victorian-looking cover, so no bad thing to unwrap on the big day. It's also filled of the sort of promise and resolve useful and stimulating at the start of a new year…11th November 2016 Escapology: What Next?
Last year, you helped to fund a book called Escape Everything! which, thanks to you, became a real thing and went off into the world. It then broke free into the wider world under the title of Ich Bin Raus in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. What a result! We collected some good press along the way and sales continue to be good. None of this would have happened without the…15th July 2016 "Ich Bin Raus" + more Escapology for free
Here's the latest development in the book you helped make a reality. There's going to be a German edition! Oh yes. The new title is Ich Bin Rous, which means "I'm Out".
This is quite an achievement and I'm glad the book now has a longer life than I originally imagined. So thank you. Here's a page about the new edition, which is probably only useful if you happen to speak German…7th June 2016 Trailer, Bibliography, Translation and Will Self
There's been a few developments around Escape Everything! and I've been meaning to tell you about them.
Second, a few people said they wished I'd included a bibliography in the book. Not wanting to disapoint on matters bibliographic,…13th April 2015 Rejoice! The Manuscript Has Been Delivered (plus publication date and cover news).
As of 19:04 on Monday 20th of April 2015, I will no longer tamper or tinker with the manuscript of Escape Everything!
I feel it's in good condition and I've submitted it to Unbound's team of fine and friendly editors. It's in their hands now. I hope they'll be gentle (though I'm certain they will be).
This will come as welcome news to those who've been asking where on…24th February 2015 Let's Finish This
Good news, everyone. The book is 96% funded. Just 4% left until the good people of Unbound can start pulling levers and turning cranks to get our lovely book into production.
If you want to help with the final push, please mention the book once more on social media (simply share this public post if you like), highlighting the exciting fact that we're about to cross the finish line.
To sweeten…10th December 2014 Working for The Man Should Be a Last Resort (Raptitude)
We broke 60% last night, largely in thanks to David Cain posting his excellent foreword to the book.
60% is an important tipping point in the funding process for reasons that will become apparent in a week or so. Sorry to be so mysterious, but stay tuned.
For anyone who missed it, here's the foreword to Escape Everything! (a rare sneak-peek of the book's actual content) along with David…21st November 2014 Ten Great Books on Liberty (Book Punks)
Good news, everyone! We've passed the halway point. Slow and steady wins the race.
Anyway, here's a little post I wrote for Book Punks, recommending ten good books about liberty. There are notable omissions, but these are ten of my favourites at least.
Ten Great Books on Liberty
As someone who’s been writing about liberty for almost a decade, I’ve also munched through a good…11th November 2014 Lock-picking Imaginary Handcuffs (Mountain Shores Podcast)
The fine fellows—Michael, Milo and Fabian—of the Mountain Shores (Un)Productivity Podcast had me on as a guest this week.
I was there ostensibly to promote our funding campaign for Escape Everything! but we had far more fun than that.
For almost an hour, we talked about Houdini, humour writing, self-help, daily routines, Tim Ferriss, Jon Ronson, Russell Brand, Jane Austen, Henry Miller,…22nd October 2014 The Deirdre Dialogue
What exactly is Escapology?
It’s the art and science of escape: escape from the undesirable things imposed upon you by modern life. We talk a lot in New Escapologist about escape from work because work seems…16th October 2014 Oscar Wilde: Escapologist
It is to be regretted that a portion of our community should be practically in slavery, but to propose to solve the problem by enslaving the entire community is childish. Every man must be left quite free to choose his own work. No form of compulsion must be exercised over him. If there is, his work will not be good for him, will not be good in itself, and will not be good for others. And by…3rd October 2014 Work is a Scam (Friendly Anarchist)
Here's an essay I wrote earlier this year. I originally did so for the widely-circulated Anarchist magazine Fifth Estate. I was invited by a friend of the editorial team to write about the parallels between Anarchism and my home-grown metaphor, Escapology.
The essay twice quotes Anarchist writer Bob Black, who was apparently blackballed (pun intended) by Fifth Estate. The kibosh on his work, it…27th September 2014 How to Quit Your Job (Idler)
So we broke the 40% barrier. Boosh! Not bad at all. But we won't see the book in print until we hit the big One-Zero-Zero. So I have a request: please tell someone else about this book--a friend, perhaps someone you think is in especial need of an escape from work or from consumerist hell --and encourage them to pledge. For this, I offer my thanks.
Anyway. From now on, I'll post to…6th September 2014 Free Books for Life! Who will pledge the millionth quid?
A message from Unbound HQ:
It’s now more than three years since we launchedUnbound and put the power of publishing in the hands of the people that matter - authors and readers.
Since then you've funded 54 books, 42 (the answer to life, the universe and everything) have been published and we are on the verge of reaching an astonishing £1,000,000 in pledges.
Along the way you funded a number…2nd August 2014 Welcome to The Shed
Welcome to our behind-the-scenes parallel universe clubhouse, The Shed. I hope you made it through the minefield in one piece and that the things in the moat didn't give you too much lip. They're just doing their job.
I like "The Shed" as a name for a back-room gathering place. At first it suggests an unassuming outbuilding where boffins and suburban eccentrics might retreat for a spot…
These people are helping to fund Escape Everything!.
Roald van de Munt
An anonymous donor
Kai xiong Yeo