Monthly Archives: January 2011

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

Arnold Bennett, British Novelist

While reading the remarkable series on changes in publishing by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, I came across her mention of Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900-1999 by Michael Korda. This book deserves a whole post, but for now I’ll let the title speak for it.

This post is about one–just one of what I suspect will be many–gem that I discovered through this book of lists. In 1912, the eighth nonfiction bestseller had a fantastic title: How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett. He was one of many bestselling fiction writers that the book spotlights, though like Fannie Hurst has since fallen into relative obscurity. In addition to fiction, he made a splash with some of the first self help books. This one has just 69 short pages, and is well worth the time.

And according to the book, that is indeed saying something:

Yet it has been said that time is money. That proverb understates the case. Time is a great deal more than money — usually. But though you have the wealth of a cloak-room attendant at the Carlton Hotel, you cannot buy yourself a minute more time than I have, or the cat by the fire has.

Who knew cloak-room attendants were so well paid in 1912? Bennett may be out of time, he died in 1931, but he seems to have made good use of the years he was allotted, at least judging by his prodigious output. One of the things this little book drives home is that we’re far from the first generation to feel that life moves a bit too fast, or that things don’t make quite the same sense they did before. This guy had the industrial revolution, then a world war, then a big old depression to contend with during his lifetime. If he had been granted more time, he would have seen… well, another world war.

Our lives are insanely simple compared to all that, and yes 24 hours a day is plenty. I loved this passage:

The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly secular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as the commodity itself!

For remark! No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive.

Talk about an ideal democracy! In the realm of time there is no aristocracy of wealth, and no aristocracy of intellect. Genius is never rewarded by even an extra hour a day. And there is no punishment. Waste your infinitely precious commodity as much as you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. No mysterious power will say: — “This man is a fool, if not a knave. He does not deserve time; he shall be cut off at the meter.” It is more certain than consols, and payment of income is not affected by Sundays. Moreover, you cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste to-morrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.

The book is now public domain and can be found for free on Google eBookstore and for the Amazon Kindle.

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First Thoughts on My New Kindle

I finally broke down last week, and bought myself a Kindle. I debated for a long time between it and the Kobo reader, but with the problems Borders is facing, ultimately opted to go with the industry big boy. I also was tempted into the ebook world, in part, to see what indie authors have been producing. Almost all of them seem to worship at the altar of Kindle.

Here’s my initial thoughts:

  • Absolute first impression: The screen resolution is amazing. This is more apparent with the pictures that come up when you shut the thing down than text itself, but all of it really does look a lot like paper. I spent a big chunk of this weekend reading on my new toy, and my eyes might even feel less strain (bigger text, after all) than they would from a paper book.
  • The case is essential. I didn’t get it at first, and the thing was just too light, didn’t feel anything like a book. But now that I have the case, it opens like a book and has the right weight to it. Plus, it has a handy little night light that’s great for reading in bed. The leather cover also has a good feel, and smell… yes ebooks can smell nice too.
  • It’s not just a bookstore at my fingertips, but instant access to pretty much every book in print today, plus tons of classics in the public domain (available for free) and new offerings from indie authors. It’ll be interesting to see if I continue my lifelong habit of stockpiling books, or prowl for a new book once I finish (or give up on) the one I’m currently reading.
  • When I first sat down to actually read a book–not to play with the settings–it all felt a bit surreal. I had an immediate urge to put the thing down and go find a real book. This passed, and part of the problem may have been that I didn’t like the first book I tried to read on it. I’m now working my way through The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and not noticing the Kindle. (The House of the Seven Gables is fantastic by the way, and I do occasionally wonder what Mr. Hawthorne would think of having his books available on such a new-fangled gizmo.)

Still, I don’t see me giving up paper books any time soon. Nostalgia aside, I have a ton of them (probably literally) around the house, both books I’ve not read yet and those I’ve read and will want to revisit someday. Though I bet I won’t buy all that many new paper books, not when the ebook variety doesn’t take up space.

Those piles of unread books that stare at me and inflict much guilt… they need trouble me no more.

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This Blog Is on the Move

I’ve moved this blog from a self-hosted WordPress.org site to WordPress.com, which will require a whole lot less maintenance. I  also noticed what’s called a “high degree of latency” on my self-hosted site. That’s fancy talk for it was way too freaking slow. I’ll add a post later on the pros and cons of each approach to blogging. (I will seriously miss Google Analytics.) But just wanted to get a quick note up to say that regular posts shall resume shortly. WordPress.com allows me to keep my original domain, so it appears that none of the links to the blog have changed. It’s all just backend, boring stuff that’s different.

Oh, and there is a new blog theme for the new year too. Whadaya think? Kinda spiffy, ain’t it?

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