Well, I missed a chance to pour out champagne yesterday. I never remember to check on important holidays until I’m too late. It saves a lot on ice buckets and flutes, but I shall never make my mark on the Chicago social scene.
Some of you might have been celebrating Hillary Clinton’s birthday yesterday, while some of you might have been observing what I am told was the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of Felix the Cat. But for Book Fair purposes, nothing could take precedence over the birthday of Napoleon Hill.
One day, after I have built this Book Fair Facility of our dreams, one wing will be dedicated to a Hall of Fame for Robert James Waller, Golda Meir, Napoleon Hill, and other Authors Whose Books We Get Way Too Often. And in spite of the claims of, say, Angela’s Ashes or the 8-Week Cholesterol Cure, I suspect Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich will lead all the rest.
We have discussed Napoleon Hill and his magnum opus before. Born in 1883 in a little cabin in the Appalachians, he set out to make something of himself. He thought and grew rich, wrote self help books about getting rich, went bankrupt, made more millions, wrote another book, lost all his money, made another fortune, wrote another book, and just sort of kept it up until he died in his late eighties. But, as I say, it is for Think and Grow Rich that he will be remembered.
Think and Grow Rich gives you a general synopsis in the title. I could tell you the secret of growing rich, but why should I? Then you wouldn’t need to buy the book and, anyhow, HE doesn’t tell you, either. He talks his way around the subject, but tells you straight out that the secret will do you more good if you discover it for yourself. He gives away the secret of writing a bestselling self-help book right there: promise them anything, but give them more pages. (He did write several sequels to his original bestseller: whether he ever gave in and told you his secret, I’m not sure. Oh, all right: as far as I can tell, the deep dark secret of how to get rich is to want to badly enough. There must be more to it than that.)
He was quick to give credit to the people who inspired him and his writing (though I’m not sure he gave much credit to his second wife, who had a lot to do with the writing and editing of the book.) And we must be quick to credit one man with single-handedly flooding Chicago with copies of it. There was a time when roughly eighty percent of the copies of Think and Grow Rich which came through the Book Fair bore a sticker to the effect that this book had been sent to someone through the offices of W. Clement Stone.
W. Clement Stone was born into poverty and started selling newspapers on a Chicago street corner when he was about six. By the time he was fourteen, he was running a newsstand, and he went from there into selling insurance. This made him enough money to give him the leisure to write self-help books. He went on to write one with Napoleon Hill (The Success System That Never Fails). He gave Think and Grow Rich a great deal of credit and always stressed a Positive Mental Attitude. Although I kind of think he would have made it without Napoleon Hill, he sent that book to everybody he felt needed it, rather than any of his own books. So perhaps without Napoleon Hill, there would have been no W. Clement Stone. And you know what THAT means.
See, one of Stone’s followers was a young man named Og Mandino, whose self-help books can be found in quantity at the Book Fair in July with Stone’s and Hill’s. Without all those books, the How To (Head) section might be devoid of Positive Mental Attitude books. Except, of course, for Dale Carnegie. And Norman Vincent Peale. And….
Anyway, I hope you had a positive October 26. And you can still sing the Felix the Cat theme today, if you feel like it.