This is a book about escapes and escape attempts. But the men and women in these pages are not escaping from the cramped cells and barred windows of a prison; they are fleeing from the demands of everyday life, from the suffocating pressure of routine and ritual, from the despair of the breakfast table and the office. Their search is for meaning, novelty, progress, and sense of identity.
Some create escapes which take a dramatic route away from mundane reality. They frantically travel the world in search of a free territory in which to find themselves, obsessively commit themselves to the search for pleasure, savagely resort to violence to demonstrate their transcendence of ordinary life and its arrangements. This book describes their temporary triumphs, their eventual failures.
The real heroes of these pages are not criminals, outsiders, revolutionaries or cultural critics. They are rather the millions of men and women in our society who continually search for some escape from reality in their everyday lives and find it in such diverse areas as hobbies, vacations, psychotherapy, art, music, games, fantasy, romantic love, sex, gambling, and mass culture.
"Escape Attempts" chronicles the multitude of free spaces which we construct as refuges from the daily routine, about the amazing variety of devices we employ in order to persuade ourselves and others that we are truly individual, that we are capable of creating distance between ourselves and the world. It is also about the precariousness of these escape attempts, the danger that they will drift into obsessions and madness, become undermined by self-consciousness, or lose their potency by being rendered banal or commercially co-opted. The book is a warning about society's strengths--but at the same time a homage to the self, a celebration of the daily struggle to rise above social destiny.
"The new introduction is a fine piece of work . . . the book is even more timely today than it was fifteen years ago when the first edition was published."
-Christopher Lasch, author of "The Culture of Narcissism
""Escape Attempts pays homage to the diverse, often ingenious ways in which people everywhere set about constructing a fragile architecture round themselves capable of withstanding the dreary pressures not just of paramount reality' but of sociological theory itself."
-Dick Hebdige, author of "Hiding in the Light
Preface; Introduction; 1. Open Prison 2. The Mental Management of Routine 3. The Nightmare of Repetition 4. The Inner Theatre of the Mind 5. Free Areas, Escape Routes and Identity Sites 6. Getting It Together 7. Momentary Slips Through the Fabric 8. Over the Wall 9. A Case of Mistaken Identity 10. Notes and References