“Europeans fought for shorter workdays, more vacation time, family leave, and all these kinds of things,” he said. “Those haven’t been priorities in America, it’s been about money. You see in the countries that fought for time, they cook more often, they have less obesity. There are real benefits to having time. There’s often a trade-off between time and money.”
Of course, the lavender is always purpler in Provence. And while Pollan isn’t advocating a wholesale adoption of the European work model, our conversation came as Europe projects a feeble economic outlook and eurozone countries battle double-digit unemployment.
That I had a talent for poetry was supposedly affirmed when, as an undergraduate, a poem I had written won first prize in the University of California at San Diego’s Warren College literary contest. Twice. Each time I was handed a check for one hundred dollars, little aware that this was the most, by a large margin, that I was ever to be paid for a single poem. Good gracious! If I could make one hundred dollars per poem, my seven-dollar-an-hour bookstore job was soon to be a thing of the past! But in truth I did not think this way.
But Patience, set both in the future and the recent past, has a desperation and a bleakness that is all its own. A tale of murder, wrongful conviction, obsessive love, poverty and domestic violence, Patience’s bright colours have an in-built irony even before we get to its protagonists’ raging, meaty faces.
I first noticed it at work. On Monday mornings a deathless ritual unfolds in offices across the land: the posing of the question, “How was your weekend?” A few years ago, my coworkers and I exchanged happy highlight reels of ambitious urban activities before cracking open our laptops and pouring ourselves a tall, refreshing glass of work. One of us went to an off-Broadway play. One of us went to a Beyoncé concert. One of us went on a date. We had fun!
These days, we respond to the question with a look of puzzled amnesia. Did we do anything? “Not really,” we say. “It was pretty uneventful.” We furrow our brows trying to remember key events, but nothing comes to mind. It’s as though the last two days have elapsed in a narcotized, undifferentiated blur. A leisure-time blackout. We still have fun — probably? — we just have no clue how it happened.