On Our Bookshelves:
Endangered Pleasures

BOOK: Endangered Pleasures

AUTHOR: Barbara Holland



When I am feeling worried, or busy, or harried by modern life, my list of things to do is long, the time I have to do them is short, and my smartphone Will Not Stop telling me how many e-mails, texts, and Facebook notices I have yet to look at…the simplest remedy is to shut off all electronic devices, pour myself a large cup of tea with milk and lots of sugar, and find something to read to put me in a better state of mind. Not my unread e-mails. Not the daily newspaper. Not one of the classics of world literature. Something calming and soothing…a childhood favorite, a novel I’ve read twenty times before, a cozy paperback mystery if I can find one that’s not too twee. Or, perhaps best of all, Endangered Pleasures, written by Barbara Holland “in defense of naps, bacon, martinis, profanity, and other indulgences.”


This book will remind you, as it does me, of the good things in life, and how we ought to take the time to enjoy the simple pleasures. Now that sounds trite, but I can assure you, it’s not. Barbara Holland had a wicked sense of humor.  The book is written as a series of sweet and only slightly subversive essays, encouraging us not just to stop and smell the flowers, but to bring some home, along with a bottle of wine, some good cheese, and chocolate for dessert…and then to take to your bed with someone you like rather a lot, sleep late, call in sick the next day, and meet a friend out for a leisurely lunch.


So, what other sorts of things should we appreciate? Breakfast. Bare feet. Naps. Our beds. Going out in cities: “San Francisco glitters; New Orleans pays jazz. Manhattan hums with a low, intense, steady thrumming sound, like high-tension wires, or as if giants were strumming their fingers on the bridge cables; it keeps out-of-towners awake in their hotel rooms.” Or staying in: “on a truly evil night in January when the highways are heaped with wreckage and the sleet hisses on the windowpanes, it’s a joy to call and cancel the plans and put on bedroom slippers.”

What else? The songs of our youth. Dogs. Cats. Fire. Boats. Travel. She finds something to enjoy and treasure in all four seasons, in buying things, in saving money, in working, in not working, and even in getting older. Growing up and finding that at long last we “can stay up all night and eat cold pizza for breakfast. We can get credit cards and buy our own toys. We can take up with unsuitable friends and lovers and use bad words, or even bad grammar. No one can make us go to school, or wear a raincoat, or clean up our room, or remember to say thank you, or kiss Aunt Doris, or wash our hands, or be nice to our sister, or put away our toys, or hang up our jacket, or eat our turnips, or respect our elders. For a while, there, it’s glorious.”


In short, it’s a gentle reminder to appreciate and enjoy what we have, to worry less about checking off boxes and accomplishing tasks, counting calories or Weight Watchers points, drinking filtered water, eating steamed broccoli, and generally behaving respectably and dutifully, being constantly caught up in doing more, moving faster, and working harder.


Buy a few copies. One for yourself, one for your favorite person who is a little too busy, and one to give to the next person you see who needs a little cheering up. (Pay it forward. It certainly can’t hurt. And seek out pleasure where you can find it. It absolutely won’t hurt.)


Barbara Holland herself lived until age 77, smoking cigarettes and drinking Scotch by the half-gallon, until the end.


RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3.5 Whistles





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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com


Lead-In Image Courtesy of Jen Bray Photography / Shutterstock.com