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    Easy to follow rules for life

    By JACK REED

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2000


    Rules For Aging is going to attract a lot of readers. It is short and easy to finish in one sitting. It is about one of our favorite illusions: Old age will be different for us. It is boiled down into simple rules and is entertaining, which never hurts. And unlike those nutty diet books we're also fond of ("Eat all you want of food that starts with a B and still lose weight"), Rules For Aging offers pretty good advice.

    Some in this list of 58 rules to live by are no more than a sentence long, such as Rule 53: "Never do it for the money. I mean it." Presumably, Roger Rosenblatt got paid for the book, but perhaps it was a labor of love, as well.

    Many of the rules are refreshingly frank. Rule 1 starts us out on the right foot: "It doesn't matter." The author is referring to the little and big things we worry about every day, such as our hair, boss and achieving the symbols of success. I particularly liked Rule 2: "Nobody is thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves, just like you." Other rules are perhaps too depressing for contented dotage. Rule 40: "A long and happy life lasts five minutes. Happiness is wonderful, but if you have had more than five consecutive minutes of it, it means that you weren't thinking."

    Actually, Rosenblatt has a point. A lot of what he is preaching here is that we are too self-aware. He shoots down Socrates' maxim, "The unexamined life is not worth living." To the contrary, says Rule 42, "The unexamined life lasts longer."

    These rules could help readers endure retirement, but they are just as helpful to those still trying to survive in the corporate world, such as Rule 18: "Consult everyone on everything and don't forget to send ingratiating notes." Or this from Rule 13: "Appearance is frequently reality, no matter what they told you in college."

    And yes, the battle of the sexes is over and there is a clear winner, according to Rule 21, which reads in full: "Male and female compatibility rules. A. She's right. B. He's really thinking about nothing. Really."

    Rules For Aging is a fun book and there really are some pearls of wisdom here. If after reading it you disagree with any part of this review, however, I refer you to Rule 24, titled "Do not go for Cyrano's nose." You've been warned.

    - Jack Reed is a Times editorial writer.

    Festival author

    Roger Rosenblatt will be a featured speaker at the Times Festival of Reading held Nov. 11-12 on the Eckerd College campus. He is scheduled to speak on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 10 in Dendy-McNair Auditorium.

    RULES FOR AGING:

    Resist Normal Impulses, Live Longer, Attain Perfection

    By Roger Rosenblatt

    Harcourt Inc., $18

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