(Original review, 2013)
This is all grimly self-helpish and there is no common denominator, so there is no top tips take-away. I’m coming from the Rough Guide’s “50 things You Must Do Before You Die” and all that, this is a bit of a double whammy. Are we supposed to squeeze the last drop of productivity out of every second? I spotted a book with the title “What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast” and I just had to buy to see for myself what it was all about. (Make it, presumably - or if they're really successful, have the help make it.) There is no end to it. Can't we just get our Weetabix down us in peace?
A lot of the examples are solitaries who live in their own imaginative world, so can defy the dictates of daily routine more. The old drugs help creativity thing does need to be laid to rest. Although, each probably had some mild stimulant - I believe Erdös said something like: 'A mathematician is a machine for turning caffeine into formulae.' But most of humanity's rhythms are dictated by an employer who sticks them on shifts that will trash their body clock. They won't recognize the delightfully eccentric world portrayed here. Some imaginative souls, though, obviously, welcomed the routine. Wallace Stevens was a life-long insurance salesman and was no doubt coming up with some pretty bizarre imagery and original language while poring over policies, as an antidote to the mundanity of it all. Maybe he and Eliot deliberately went against the romantic cliché of the poet for their own sanity.
I don't know if anyone else feels this, but I have always felt that the basic unit of physiological time - the day - is just too short for me. It's just too itty-bitty and doesn't suit my rhythms but I can't see it being changed under edict of the EU. Maybe if it was a normal-two-days long day, then you could get into stuff more, but it seems before you know it, you're getting undressed and into bed again and then staring at that damned toothbrush again next morning in a very Groundhog Day kind of way. Routine is essential to humans but it is dreadfully double-edged.
And you can imagine a Kafka being driven barmy by noise - he probably was glad of the 'horror' of the office. There may have been some relative serenity there. How can anyone study toward and work at any profession in a working-class area, or anywhere which tends to be unholy bedlam. You need this precious commodity of reasonable quiet more than anything. Without it - if the mind cannot be quietened and focused - what of any seriousness can be achieved? More a class handicap than many others.
So for best results, I should get ready to down coffee (which I don’t drink) and a martini, then fix up, and sniff rotten apples, all in the nude. But where do I get this Bergman Ready-Brek?