Robert Pimm

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How to increase your attention span

A man is writing a novel.  He decides to check a fact.  He consults his computer, or his phone, to find he has six new messages from friends.  An extraordinary news story has come out.  Some thrilling sport is available, live, on-line.

You know the rest.  By the time our writer friend returns to his novel, 45 minutes have passed, and he has forgotten what he originally set out to research.

Our apparent inability to focus on anything for an extended period of time is one of the problems of the 21st century.  It risks hampering our creativity and channelling our energy into bitty activities which leave us unsatisfied or unhappy.  What can we do?

Two things.

First, we can learn from the masters of concentration.  One of these is the novelist Anthony Trollope, about whose awesome qualities I have written before, including this: “Trollope’s work is a reminder that sometimes, life in the slow lane can be better than the alternative. There’s no way to rush-read Trollope.  His novels are best savoured: read in chunks, rather than a few pages at a time.”

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Review: Trollope: 11 reasons to read him 10/10

Let’s cut to the chase.  If you haven’t discovered the novelist Anthony Trollope, you should start reading him.  Today.  Here are 11 life-changing reasons why:

(i) the six Palliser novels, starting with Can you forgive her, are literature’s best guide to politics and power.  Why did Lord Acton say “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men“?  Trollope explains, long before Acton said it;

anthony-trollope-can-you-forgive-her

(ii) Trollope writes perceptively about relationships and sexual politics.  His novels boil with strong women, from the indomitable Lady Glencora to my favourite, Miss Dunstable (an heiress who will not be pushed around by any man – not even the all-powerful Duke of Omnium).  Many Trollope women feel more emancipated, or tormented by their lack of emancipation, than their sisters in some contemporary novels;

(iii) Trollope is brilliant on religion and its relationship to the state. (more…)

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