David McCooey reviews 'The Pleasures of Leisure' by Robert Dessaix

David McCooey reviews 'The Pleasures of Leisure' by Robert Dessaix

The Pleasures of Leisure

by The Pleasures of Leisure

Knopf $29.99 pb, 218 pp, 9780143780045.

The Last Resort (1986), a photobook by Martin Parr, includes a photograph of a woman sunbaking in the English seaside resort of New Brighton. The woman is lying, facedown and topless, on a concrete ramp, directly in front of the caterpillar tracks of a gigantic excavator. Beside her, a young girl plays with a red plastic bucket. As with so many of Parr’s images, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Certainly, one can note the woman’s faith in the vehicle’s brakes.

I was haunted by this picture of English recreation as I read Robert Dessaix’s stylish contemplation on leisure, The Pleasures of Leisure. The seemingly redundant title of Dessaix’s book implies the oxymoronic possibility of unpleasurable leisure, but – unlike Parr – Dessaix does not dwell on that possibility. Dessaix’s work is for ‘general readers’, and while it makes passing references to some late-model theorists of leisure (such as ‘humourless’  Theodor Adorno), it largely bypasses the field of Leisure Studies that emerged in the 1970s. Nevertheless, Dessaix isn’t blind to the workings of class, gender, capital, and race (ideology, in other words) in the production and consumption of leisure.

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Published in May 2017, no. 391
David McCooey

David McCooey

David McCooey is a prize-winning poet and critic. His latest collection of poems, Outside (2011), was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards, and was a finalist for the 2012 Melbourne Prize for Literature's 'Best Writing Award'. His first collection, Blister Pack (2005), won the Mary Gilmore Award and was shortlisted for four major national literary awards. McCooey is the deputy general editor of the prize-winning Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (2009). His album of 'poetry soundtracks', Outside Broadcast, was released in 2013 as a digital download. He is a professor of literature and writing at Deakin University in Geelong, where he lives. His forthcoming poetry collection, Star Struck, will be published in late 2016 by UWA Publishing. His website is: www.davidmccooey.com


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