Waiting for the Weekend
I chose Waiting for the Weekend by Witold Rybczynski as the April book for my 2009 reading list.
While I did start reading it in April, I just now finished it. It was not as gripping as several other of Mr. Rybczynski's books that I've read and it took me a few chapters of reading before I was really interested in the subject matter: the weekend. Leisure time isn't a subject one generally wants to spend much time or energy contemplating, unless one is planning the activities for the weekend - and that's where the book gets interesting.
What I take for granted was not always in existence. The two-day weekend of Saturday and Sunday is a very recent innovation. Various nations and cultures throughout history have had holidays, festival days, and religious celebrations, but typically those particular days had their own rules and activities. The idea of a day or days to what one wants - or choose to do nothing - is modern and was helped into being by a confluence of several things - at least, Rybczynski makes a good argument for them: the Industrial Revolution; labor unions; the automobile as personal transportation; and solitary reading.
"The privatization of reading has been called one of the major cultural developments of the early modern era. It was also a milestone in the history of leisure. Solitary reading is the ideal vehicle for individual leisure. The reader can do something--or nothing. He can pick up one book or another. He sets the pace, reading uninterruptedly or leafing through a book at random, letting his imagination free to make what connections it will. Reading requires long periods of calm--at the comfortable rate of two hundred words a minute, it takes about fifteen hours to complete a typical novel. Reflection, contemplation, privacy, and solitude are associated with reading books. And withdrawal. Both withdrawal from the world around one, from the cares of everyday life, and withdrawal into oneself."
This book ended better than it began - sort of like the weekend after the work-week.