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Volume VIII Number 4 . . . . October 19, 2001
There are many ways of organizing events, but chronologically, whether by era, reign, or year, is by far the most common method. Time rolls on, year by year, and everything can be fitted in to its proper slot. Or can it? The author of this book takes as his premise that the time of day at which a particular event occurred also has a significance worthy of note.
In some cases, Patterson has a point. The exact minute at which people in lofty political positions decide to do things --- the reversion of Hong Kong to China, and the moment when control of the Panama Canal moved from the United States to Panama both occurred at midnight (July 1, 1997 and January 1, 2000, respectively) --- tells us more of the cultural idea of a "significant moment" than anything of the events themselves. It is perhaps surprising that rather less orchestrated things, such as Amundsen's arrival at the South Pole (11 a.m. Dec. 16, 1911), also have had a tendency to take place on the hour. The possibility of round-off error is a factor that can not be ignored, however.
Just for fun, I counted births and deaths occurring between eleven and twelve of both morning and evening, and came up with approximately equal numbers in each. Did Paterson have a quota? And far more deaths than births. The exact minute both of births and deaths, particularly in modern times, does tend to be recorded, but a person is usually more famous after a notable life than at its beginning, and, therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that the moment of death of an important person is more likely to be popularly remembered than that of his or her birth. Royalty is an exception, of course, and Prince Charles' birth is duly entered under 9:14 p.m.
Births, deaths, disasters, battles, and political, entertainment and sporting events, all turn up here, linked to their proper hour. The extensive index shows that few people rate more than one entry; birth, death, or significant-event time is generally all that is required to recount all interesting details. An exception is Marilyn Monroe who has no fewer than three entries: one for her marriage to Joe di Maggio (1:50 p.m.), and two for her birth on June 1, 1926. Having been born at 9:30 in the morning, she apparently was reborn at 7:30 in the evening! Obviously a remarkable woman.
All in all, this is a grand collection of trivia. No statistically significant trends leap out as one browses through the day, and this method of organization does lead to some strange bedfellows. 10:30 in the morning, for example, sees Pierre Trudeau's resignation, the death of Jack Ruby, the first meeting of the United Nations and an explosion in a coal mine in Monongah, West Virginia which killed 362 miners. For those readers who like their information in snippets, it is fun, and some of the extra details are very interesting---frequently more so than the event which placed them there. As the introduction concludes, however, "take your time" with this book. It could cause mental indigestion if swallowed in large gulps.
Mary Thomas works in two elementary schools in Winnipeg, MB, and thinks it unlikely that this tome will put The Guinness Book of Records out of business.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.