Love Me, Love My Mess

I was in New York City last week for the annual jazz educators conference and NEA Jazz Masters events. It was a busy busy few days, and now I need a vacation, but alas it’s not yet in the cards for me. Meanwhile, I received this tip from a reader:

Wondering if you saw the review in the Sunday (Jan. 7) L.A. Times that immediately made me think about your recent poem submission!!!

The book is called “A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder” by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman.

It took me awhile to find the piece in question. Being in a hurry as usual, I jumped immediately to Sunday’s book section online and couldn’t find the review. Maybe my tipster meant The New York Times I thought, having been there this past weekend. Nope, not there either. I tried a search; nada. Back to the Los Angeles Times where a search for “A Perfect Mess” yielded nothing.

Duh! If I would slow down enough to read carefully, thoughtfully, I might have noticed the detail — “Jan. 7” — albeit in parentheses. Still, it took many more mouse clicks to find it, and that’s because it was not a feature book review, but just a squib in the brief reviews. Here’s what Susan Salter Reynolds wrote in her Discoveries column:

A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder
Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman
Little, Brown: 336 pp. $25.99

Good news! Organization is overrated. Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman offer studies and interviews revealing the tyranny of organizing, our unwarranted guilt about messes, the beauty of mess and how suited it is to the way the mind works. (“Our brains evolved to function in a messy world, and … when we insist on thinking in neat, orderly ways we’re really holding our minds back from doing what they do best.”) Einstein’s desk at Princeton was an example of “stupendous disarray.” Desk mess seems to grow with education, salary and experience. Whereas neatness “whittle[s] away at … quantity and diversity,” messiness “comfortably tolerate[s] an exhaustive array of … entities.” There are chapters on the history of mess (starting with efforts to control nature), our fear of domestic mess, the need for messiness in city planning and the Seven Highly Overrated Habits of Time Management. The authors rely heavily on data and methods of the burgeoning and amusing organization industry, including the National Assn. of Professional Organizers. Their book is thought-provoking, well-organized, badly needed.

Wish I had time to read it; sounds like good news, indeed.

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