Leisure: In Praise of Uselessness

As the drama critic for the New York Herald Tribune, Walter Kerr has a special irritation. He has trouble enjoying a play when he has to worry about reviewing it.

Now, at book length, he invites others to share his discontent by showing how Americans have let their work spoil their pleasures. "I'm going to start out," Kerr warns in his first sentence, "by assuming that you're approximately as unhappy as I am."

In The Decline of Pleasure (Simon & Schuster, $5), Kerr blames not the usual scapegoat, the Puritans, but the British Utilitarian philosophers of the last century, who declared:...

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